I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish — you know!
How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
This is one of Emily Dickinson’s most well known poems. A bit of irony, perhaps, that a poem about being invisible is one of her most prominent. I wonder if many of us relate to the ethos of being nobody, either by choice, circumstance, temperament or something else altogether.
When I began this project, as I’ve said, it wasn’t with academic aspirations, but really as a personal journey with a bit of mystery as I did not (and still do not) know where it will lead by year’s end.
Thus far, I have been making an attempt to “select my society,” and shut the door to as many distractions as possible, which has proved to be easier said than done. I have started writing poetry again for the first time in more than ten years and have gotten quite a bit of reading done. I continue to open myself to what is truly essential which leads naturally to the next step with the “nobody” poem as my lantern.
For me this poem speaks to the need to shed the many false selves that I project both to myself and to others. The other night I had a dream that my entire house burned to the ground leaving only a shell behind. Still intact, and able to be rebuilt, but unrecognizable at first. Scary, yes, and a little bit exciting.
Right now I am struggling with the part of me that really does want to be “somebody” (although I really don’t know what that means) albeit as a consummate introvert who wants to be in the shadows. In reading the stories of Emily Dickinson’s family, I have been struck by the inner and outer conflict produced by those closest to her trying to claim their own place on the world stage. And again by the irony that in making available her poetry and letters to the public her wish to be “nobody” was denied and that her work provided a spotlight for others who were more inclined to seek it.
Undoubtedly there is freedom in not seeking to project or inhabit an image, especially to ones self. But I can’t help being supremely grateful for those who persevered in revealing Emily’s work and a bit of her essence to the rest of us. Perhaps beauty is a combined effort of the nobodies and somebodies of the world after all.
May this journey lead to integration of the two within myself.