Updike Left His Best Self at Home
“I have never really left Pennsylvania, that is where the self I value is stored, however infrequently I check on its condition.” So says the late John Updike, famous writer who spent his adult life on the east coast but here claims that he left his best self back where he grew up. There’s a lot to ponder in this one sentence. I’ll just fly by a bit of it.
He is talking, among other things, about home. Home is not primarily a place—otherwise those of us who had many different homes would be left out. Home is a time of life and a state of mind and a condition of the spirit and a set of relationships. I think much of human activity is an attempt to return home. Not so much to return to innocence or coziness or simplicity—though each of these is part of it—but to a place where one fit and the world made sense and seemed of manageable size. The idea of home—even if not the reality—is a place where things are pretty much as they should be (which is to say a place of shalom). Something like that.
Another thing he is addressing is the distinction between the self I am, at whatever moment and in whatever place, and “the self I value.” We all would like to be, more often than we are, our “best selves.” Some fight hard to close that gap, others simply acknowledge it with a shrug. I think maybe east coast, highly successful, famous Updike knows his best self is none of these things. He sounds a little weary, like he wants to go home.
So what do you see in the quotation?