June 11, 2005

A Lump Among Lumps

I know only one poem. I have only bits and pieces of all the other poems that the nuns drilled into our heads. It is by Emily Dickinson:

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!

At the time I memorized this poem, I was trying very hard to be somebody. It was the time of John F. Kennedy and he was our model in the Catholic elementary school. He was among “the best and the brightest.” I wanted to be president some day. I settled for president of the eighth grade, ruling over 50 kids. I do not recall exactly what “ruling” meant, but it made me a somebody.

In high school being a somebody meant being in the right group. For me it was the jocks. I never quite made it and I was always just on the outside looking in. I told myself that it because I was not a good enough athlete, but that was not it. My best friend was not an athlete and he was in the group. I just did not seem to fit.

In college I became dorm president when the first one, the good one, resigned. So what? I did nothing. I desperately wanted to join a residential group. I wanted to be part of a group, any group. No one would have me. I was a nobody.

I can recall many times that I did something in order to be a somebody even though I really did not want the job – secretary of Rotary, town finance committee, etc. All so that I could be a somebody. “There goes Jim the Secretary, Jim the Board Member, Jim the Partner – a real somebody!”

I have shifted. I do not want to be a somebody any more. Now I want to be a lump – just a lump. Lumps are not noticeable – a lump of sugar, a lump of coal. Lumps just are.

Some people strive to be “just another bozo on the bus.” That sounds too active for me, with all that bus riding. That sounds like trying to get somewhere. And Bozo was a big star.

No, I want to be a lump. A lump is immobile. It just sits there. It is a lump among lumps, not particularly noticeable. That’s it! I want to be a lump among lumps. Just a lump – a real nobody.

I’m nobody who are you?