“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.” E.E. Cummings
“I’m just the trying to find myself,” stands out today as the battle cry of the peace seeking hippies of the sixties and early seventies. I recall saying those very words to my sister, thirteen years my senior, on break from college at UCLA. And of course she responded with something like, “What the hell are you even talking about?”
I approach my seventh decade and as you might guess I have found a lot of answers to that question, but there are times I still find it as baffling as it was for my thirty-something sister fifty years ago. With so much invested in trying to be accepted, I find that if I am not thoughtful I begin to become someone that others may want me to be—at work, on sports teams, in organizations, and even with friends.
I have probably devoted more time than most in search of the meaning of life and even more important, the meaning of MY life. I have written personal mission and vision statements, constructed thoughts on the legacy I’d like to leave, and searched my primary archetypes all in an attempt to access that true me inside of me.
And you know what? I have been very successful. I do indeed have a clue about the core me: how I think, what I love and don’t love, my goals for life, my driving desires that initiate most of my actions, my character defects, and what I need to do to contribute to the value of society.
Yet there is the never-ending weight that is always telling me that I need to know more. So. After years of loving the E.E. Cummings quote above, I finally decided to look it up in his writings to see if he offers any insight into that state he calls “nobody-but-yourself.” I discovered that the quote comes from a letter Cummings wrote to an eight-year-old girl…
A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words.
This may sound easy. It isn’t.
A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking.
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.
A few weeks ago I wrote on the undervalued value of feelings. The premise was that, more than anything else, our feelings really drive our thoughts and actions, our fears and shortcomings, and most important our values and beliefs. Of course we use logic and analysis (sometimes strongly) to influence our decision, actions, and beliefs. For me, logic and analysis are only pieces of information I feed my gut in order to make a sound decision.
But, my final decision will eventually come down to how I feel about it. And that is the same place I ought search to gain a better understanding of how to be the “nobody-but-myself” me. One of the few things I possess solely is the way I feel about something. Why not use feelings more often in the most important decisions of my life, like… who is the real “nobody-but-myself?”
Feel Like Yourself and You Will Be Like Yourself
Photo courtesy of leolintang at istockphoto