Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, August 24, 2015

John Updike-Profession v Person

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©

I am reading Adam Begley’s biography of John Updike, the best writer of the 20th century, as far as I am concerned.

Everyone who knew Updike seems to agree that early on he decided that he could not be successful both as a writer and as a person, and he chose to be a writer. He chose to be a human doing instead of a human being.

That is just one of the reasons that he is a famous writer and I am not. I can remember the moment, when our first child was born, that I decided that I would put personal success ahead of professional success. I thought it might be possible to be successful in both, but I knew, as Updike did, that you have to choose which will be first.

I often slipped off my chosen path, though. There are certain jobs, and ministry seems to be chief among them, where you are praised for neglecting personal relationships. With the ministry, there is much to do, busyness, yes, but there is the added incentive that you are “doing God’s work.” Who can argue with that?

Sports figures are actually praised for neglecting their families. “He’s so committed he sleeps in his office.” “He leaves his wife and baby and goes in early to get extra batting practice.” It’s called “work ethic.” It destroys relationships as much, if not more, than “lazy ethic.” I remember one of Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden’s sons saying that his father was always so busy at his job that he saw only one of his own son’s high school football games, and that was when he was there to scout another player.

I know people who chose personal success and were also successful professionally. Part of the professional success was because they worked on personhood first.

I do not know anyone who chose profession over personhood who was successful at both. Interior success can enhance exterior activities. It does not seem to work the other way around.

Some old people keep on doing what they have always one because their identity is so solely in external activities that they have to keep on the job for their life to have meaning.

One of the great benefits of retirement is that you have a chance to make that choice again. Professional life is over. You can choose being over doing.

John Robert McFarland

I started this blog several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to “the place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. Thus the title. We now live in Bloomington, IN, “the place of basketball.” I’m not changing the title, though.

I tweet as yooper1721.

My new novel is now available. Here is the synopsis: They called them heroes. Then forgot about them. Joe Kirk lost a leg. Lonnie Blifield lost his eyes. Victoria Roundtree lost her skin. “Zan” Zander lost his mind. Four homeless and hopeless Iraqistan VETS who accidentally end up living together on an old school bus. With nowhere to go, and nothing else to do, they lurch from one VAMC to another, getting no help because, like the thousands of other Iraqistan VETS who are homeless, unemployed, and suicidal, they do not trust the system and refuse to “come inside.” After another fruitless stop, at the VAMC in Iron Mountain, Michigan, a doctor is found dead, and the VETS are accused of his murder. Distrustful, strangers to America, to each other, and even to themselves, they must become a unit to learn who really murdered the doctor, so that they can stay free. In doing so, they uncover far more, about themselves and about their country, than they dared even to imagine. Available in print and ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BOKO, Black Opal Books, and almost any place else that sells books.

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