Periodically I revisit posts that I particularly like from the more than ten years of writing that I’ve done. Yikes! That means I’ve written something like 500 of these things. There is no particular rhyme or reason for why certain pieces rise up in my memory, though there is often a seasonal connection. Such is the case today.
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
Three Nobodies usually appear on the liturgical calendar for January 27 – Lydia, Dorcas (aka Tabitha) and Phoebe. In 2019 this was a Sunday so the nobodies were skipped over, more insignificant than ever, but I remembered them. These three women receive a mention or two in the New Testament, and seem to have shared the capacity to be helpful to others – early Christian leaders and the poor around them – because of their presumed prosperity and independence. Their stories are lost to time, but are hardly unique. We are surrounded by such people who fail to advertise their deeds to an admiring Bog! Even in Washington D.C., a place where humility is not overly abundant.
There’s also one big Somebody on a different calendar for this same day. That would be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, celebrating a 263rd birthday.
In Emily Dickinson’s poem above, two Nobodies seem to have found each other, creating something we might call a community of nobodies. A comfortable place to be, it would seem. A place where companionship is valued. What we know of Mozart’s life is that he was the embodiment of Somebody. Famous his entire life, his accomplishments croaked to an admiring Bog at every turn, his fame well-deserved. He undoubtedly found the demands made by his fame, the travel, and treatment by his patrons to be dreary at times, but aren’t we very glad that this particular Somebody was born with his head full of music bursting to come out.
Let’s be honest, though, most of us are Nobodies and our value is found when we fulfill the “grace of daily obligations,” as author Gail Godwin puts it. Little things, mostly unnoticed, and finding ourselves in a community of Nobodies perhaps there is the joy of companionship, and certainly there is the potential for doing good.
Undoubtedly the world is a more complete place because there are both Somebodies and Nobodies in it – but it worries me when the goal is to be a Somebody. Fame for fame’s sake – that’s often behind the evil of mass shootings and attention-seeking, chaos-creating tricksters. People are happiest when, no matter how consequential their contributions to the world, they are comfortable with their nobodiness. When they don’t take themselves too seriously… (belated happy birthday, Wolfgang)
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This blog represents my attempt to put thoughts together on various things that seem to connect – in my mind anyway. More often than not new ideas first involve reaching back to what was and I can only hope that the prehistoric San cave painting at the top of this page inspires all kinds of connections between old and new.
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