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!
Recently these words of Emily Dickinson, (1830- 1886), our most reclusive of American poets, have been going through my mind. This was one of the earliest poems I memorized, probably in elementary school, and I'm sure that I thought she was talking about being shy. Which was something I could relate to very easily. But through the lens of Zen practice this poem takes on a different meaning.
We truly are nobody.
No matter how much we try to build a self that lasts and is unchanging and reliable, the truth is that we change from moment to moment. The endless ego-building work of trying to be somebody is so dreary. Like a frog wallowing in a bog, it's constricting and tight and messy. The alternative has to be kept private, or we'll turn being nobody into being somebody (but someone advertised as nobody.) And of course, writing about this is a form of advertising, so I'd better stop now, and let Jimmy Durante take over the real work. As he says, fame, if you win it, comes and goes in a minute. Where's the real stuff in life to cling to? And guess what the answer is?