“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Oscar Wilde.
One of my favourite authors. A creator of bons mots and a specialist in renewing the meaning of meaning within words. And yes, within the witticism is a pearl of great price. We must indeed be ourselves. But who are we? That is the question. And how do we find ourselves, or know when we are lost, or know when we are found? Alas, all of us must seek those answers for themselves. No one size fits all.
Re-reading Robert Bly’s The Sibling Society, I am struck by his description of a lost generation that looks sideways for knowledge and ignores the long-held traditions of those earlier generations who brought us here and led us to where we are now. Lost people living in a lost world of instantaneous, shallow distractions. Deflect, distract, don’t think, gaze in awe and wonder, and let the show go on.
The Romans, towards the end of their Empire, had words for it too – bread, wine, and circus. Wrap yourself in an invisible cloak of instant pleasures, think no negative thoughts, do nothing, indulge, enjoy, envy, and climb that ladder as fast as you can. Onwards and upwards into the clouds of unknowing and uncaring.
Up there the Wizard of Oz performs his magic, his illusions, his trickery. Only believe and thou shalt see – whatever it is that the Magician wishes to show you. Don’t think. Don’t doubt. Be like someone famous. Copy them. Imitate them. Smoke like them. Drink like them. Be like them. Try to be them. There are some wonderful role models out there. Only believe ….
And forget about the Fall of the Roman Empire, forget about Oscar Wilde, forget about Robert Bly, forget about me. Above all forget these words – “Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.”
Forget them – or carve them into your heart and follow the Delphic Oracle and “Know thyself” or Shakespeare “To thine own self be true”. And remember – you can always make each day a good one. It’s up to you.