He wrote about mundane things; of middle class neighborhoods, Pennsylvania towns in which he grew up; farmlands before strip malls replaced them against the skyline of cornfield rows; and of affairs that grew naturally out of a revolution emancipated from the Sixties; of quiet sufferings and the rhythmic monotony of ordinary lives.
John Updike was an “in-betweener” — too young to fight in WWII, too old to have been drafter for the Vietnam debacle; and so he experienced the quietude and normalcy in between the two bookends of this country’s tumult and trials.
Updike was a voice for generations who saw the post-war era, of baby-boomers and American prosperity at its zenith; of the loss of any normative confluence of moral dictum and the abandonment of constraints once imposed by Protestantism. All, of course, with a twinkle in his eye and a ready smile. The Internet abounds with photographs of this uniquely American author — almost all with that thin smile as if he was about to share a private joke.
The Tetralogy of the Rabbit novels (actually a quintet if you include the last of the series, a novella entitled “Rabbit Remembered”) evinces a country gone soft after the harsh period of the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam era that undermined the ethical mandates known for generations before, unleashing a liberty of hidden sins like a bubbling cauldron of untamed desires. But in the end, he is best known for the mundane, the ordinary, and how life in the suburbs of a prosperous nation left an emptiness unspeakable except by a voice given in narrative brilliance, from an author who was a regular contributor to The New Yorker.
Somehow, he made the ordinary seem exciting, even relevant. By contrast, modernity has focused upon the rich and famous, and of greater unreachable glamour where perfection surpasses pragmatism. Updike was able to make the commonplace seem important, the ordinary appear significant and the monotony of the mundane as not merely prosaic. And isn’t that all that we seek, in the end?
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the loss of relevance, the ordinary and the commonplace is what often scares the Federal or Postal employee.
The job itself; the career; the monotonous routine of going to work, yet finding relevance in the act of “making a living” — these were all taken for granted in Updike’s short stories. That other stuff — of infidelities and dalliances — were a deviation that Updike tried to point out as mere fluff in otherwise ordinary lives; and of medical conditions, they upend and disrupt the normalcy we all crave.
Federal Disability Retirement is a means to an end — of bringing back balance within a life that has become disrupted, but it is a way to bring back order where disruption to the mundane has left behind a trail of chaos. And to that, the twinkle in Updike’s eyes and the thin smile would tell us that he would approve of such a move which will return you back to a life of mundane normalcy.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire