They’d Banish Us, You Know

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us–don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Emily Dickinson

I’m a big fan of Emily. I enjoy short, undreary poems like this one, and those produced by Carl Sandburg, and William Carlos Williams. I love poetry that gets to the point, paints an image, and lets you sit in thoughtful contemplation as you pick lint from your navel.

I had to laugh at a study question on a college curriculum sample packet: “Some readers, who are modest and self-effacing or who lack confidence, feel validated by this poem. Why?” Ha! We’ve been found out. The modest, self-effacing unconfident invalidated crowd, and here we are! They’d banish us, you know. For being quiet.

How utterly American, to value the second-stanza frog above the Nobody. How many times have I had co-workers say “I couldn’t watch that movie. Not enough action.” Or heard a president go all stern and cowboy on a “rogue nation”.  Alexis de Tocqueville said (way back in 1835) “An American cannot converse, but he can discuss, and his talk falls into a dissertation. He speaks to you as if he was addressing a meeting.” We aren’t good at listening. We can’t, even for a second, be Nobody. It’s a threat to self, to our Enlightenment ideas of rational thought, and liberty, freedom of speech, and all that.  It’s rather antithetical to the words of Jesus, as depicted by the Gospel of Matthew, when He says “Blessed are the meek.” We have that implicit, American urge to be amphibian bog-talkers.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I think the very premise of the study question is at fault. it marginalizes the Nobody. It’s easy to ignore the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, and the wretched refuse (to quote a famous statue). Why do they need validation? If they accepted Jesus and went away, we could all be happy, right? Right? Hey–where’d everybody go?

I know I’m guilty of that sin. Being Nobody is so Buddha-like. It takes self-reflection, contemplation and, yes, companions, to become Nobody. Being Nobody isn’t self-effacing, as the question suggested: it takes enormous courage. Any fool can prattle on for hours; just read my blog as Exhibit A. I resolve to be the best Nobody I can, and to drag the rest of you along with me. The admiring bog isn’t all that great anyway.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?


4 thoughts on “They’d Banish Us, You Know”

  1. If I like the blog do I become part of the admiring blog? If I don’t understand it am I part of the admiring fog? Frogs are public? I thought from one blog that I was thick and ordinary, sounds more frog like than nobody like.
    Sometimes I meet people and I hope I am not in the same part of heaven with them. Actually, this comes quite a bit after I meet them. But sometimes I meet people and I hope that I am at least somewhat near them in heaven, mostly because I think I won’t be the only one who wants to be near them, but I would at least like to be in earshot of you.


  2. New York version: I’m Nobody! Up Yours!
    California version: I’m, like, Nobody. Got pot?
    Donald Trump version: You’re nobody.
    Wayne Newton or Dean Martin version: You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you.
    Psychotic version: You’re somebody in my head.
    Jesse Jackson version: I AM . . . someBODY.
    Ghost version: I’m no body.

    Stop me now while I still have time to work. I’m enjoying your blog, Brian.


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