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They call him The King. Arnold Palmer once was and always will be the king of golf. He took a sport that had been largely shut up behind stone gates and made it appeal to the common person. He came by this honestly.

Arnie’s father, Deacon (a preacher’s got to like that name, don’t you know?), was the greens superintendent at the Latrobe Country Club in western Pennsylvania. He was Arnie’s first teacher. He taught him how to get the right grip on the club to play the game. He taught him how to get the right grip on ambition to play the game of life.

We become what we practice. If we practice want, we will want forever. If we practice satisfaction, we will be satisfied.

Deacon once was offered the position of greens superintendent at the neighboring, famed and exclusive Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh. When he told young Arnold of the opportunity, his son was proud and began to dream of being there. Deke turned down the job. He told his boy this: “Arn, I’m staying at Latrobe. We’re going to make it happen here. I can’t drink any more, I can’t eat any more, and I can’t love my business any more, so I’m staying right where we’re at.”

Arnold Palmer has lived long enough now (he’s 84) to judge that to have been his greatest life lesson. The Latrobe club hasn’t changed much over the years, but to Arnold it’s still got everything he needs. It’s home and I love it, he says.

The recent Super Bowl commercials reinforced what has become conventional wisdom among us: having “more, better or different” is the secret to happiness. We will be satisfied when we get the next job, house, car, spouse, child or thing. But the truth is, getting the next thing doesn’t cure the insatiable desire that undergirds every change.

We become what we practice. If we practice want, we will want forever. If we practice satisfaction, we will be satisfied.

We would all profit from adopting the “philosophy of enough” exemplified by Deacon Palmer. When you cultivate a sense of fullness rather than emptiness, you can experience satisfaction in life and practice gratitude.

St. Paul testified to this very thing: “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

That last line about being able to do all things through “him” who strengthens us has been taken in all sorts of well-meaning but ill-advised directions. Football players wear it as an eye-black amulet to draw strength from on the field. Spiritual motivation speakers beseech aspirants to prosper by letting God give them the promised edge. The context teaches us just the opposite: God strengthens us spiritually beyond our natural capacity so that we may accept the circumstances of want or plenty and learn contentment.

This may be bad for the economy, but it’s good for the soul of society. Jesus promised abundant life. He didn’t promise abundance of things. Like Deke Palmer, we can know the good life if we learn the adequacy of all that is already ours.

Enough already, then.


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