Sunday, October 14, 2007

Does Everybody Want to Be Somebody?

I received a wonderful gem this week from one of our readers, strawberrybanana. It's an article that Wyatt Cooper, Anderson's father, wrote for Harper's Bazaar back in May of 1971.

It comes at an interesting time for me. I think we all spent some time questioning life and wondering the best way to lead our lives. Once again, Wyatt has some touching words that can lead us to the answer of this question. I am amazed when I read his writing how introspective he was. He took time to think about what really mattered in life and maybe what isn't so important in life. And once again, I read the following being amazed at how ahead of his time his subject matter really was.


Does everybody want to be somebody?

Of course we do! We live in an age when most of us have worn out our lives in the struggle to “be somebody” or “to make something of ourselves.” We have twisted our souls into knots trying to be the somebody that we thought other somebodies expected us to be. The more lucky of us, perhaps, have spent our time trying to find out the somebody we are. It is a question that occupies us from the time we are born until we die, and some us go to our graves without ever having found any suitable answer.

We will, generally, embrace any sort of recognition at all that promises to give us some sense, however frail, of our own unique personalities. Every day we hear those touching little claims to some minor distinctions: “I had the worst appendix the doctor has seen in forty years of appendixes,” “My head was the largest of any baby ever delivered normally at St. Rita’s,” “My third cousin, once removed, was the first blue-eyed white man west of the Mississippi to die in the electric chair.” All of us need to feel that there is, somewhere in this vast and overwhelming universe, some superlative that relates to us. And why shouldn’t we? Each of us is unique. Each of us happens only once in all eternity and we have a right to cherish our specialness.

After all, we know the undiscovered mysteries that are locked in our private hearts. In the high school I attended, it was custom to have who’s who contests in which were chosen best looking boy, most beautiful girl, most friendly, most witty, most studious--a long list of honors, almost enough to include everybody, and I used to sit through the nominating, finding desperate reasons in my mind why at least one person present might think me sufficiently the most of something or other at least to nominate me. Alas, that one person was never heard from, but the need and the hope is so strong in us that if I’d been suggested for the most wildly flattering categories I would immediately have believed in the possibility of it’s truth, would furthermore, have decided then and there that the fellow who spoke my name was a person of heretofore unsuspected discernment and wisdom. Indeed, if I’d been called “most likely to make an ass of himself,” I fear that I’d have leaped to my feet cheering before I could have been stopped.

We borrow glory by identifying with the famous. How many times have you been startled when some friend confided that she was always being mobbed at airports by crowds who’d mistaken her for Lana Turner? There are even desperate cases when the famous look-alike is no beauty. Once in Rome I met a nice American couple who’d brought their recently widowed sister-in-law to Europe to cheer her up. I was horrified to discover that they went from rich hotel to rich hotel, and rich restaurant to rich restaurant and saw nothing of the cities they visited. I insisted on dragging them to St. Peter’s and they went along, humoring me out of an American politeness. There was a moon, the fountains were going, and I was once more thrilled but my friends hardly glanced around. When I pointed out the window at which the Pope makes his appearances, the widow did not even turn her head; she was busy telling me that back home everybody said she was the spittin’ image of Imogene Coca.

We have, in our time, even seen people kill to become somebody. We have seen it more than once in recent years. Lee Harvey Oswald was a nobody with a driving need for recognition. He longed to be a part of history, and he succeeded. For a moment he held the power of life and death over the most powerful man in the world and in pulling the trigger he made his name immortal. You can even, if you have seen one of his mother’s appearances on television, tell where he got if from. Mrs. Margurite Oswald , whose stationary, we are told, has after her name the title “mother of Lee Harvey Oswald,” and who refers to herself as “A Mother of History,” has the manner of someone, long unrecognized, who has come into her own at last. And her son, I suspect, sleeps easy in his grave because in America in the twentieth century we mistake notoriety for accomplishment. It’s a sad and sick side of an essentially American obligation to make a name for ourselves. Attention is glory.

Each of us has to define himself for himself and we look for clues out there, in the world around us. To form an idea of our worth we study our images in the mirror of other people’s eyes. For the benefit of those mirrors we clock ourselves in all sorts of fashionable notions, status symbols, brand names and other facades of eggshell fragility. Then we wonder why the stranger reflected back at us is unrecognizable. We’ve tried to invent ourselves from the outside in. We’ve based our hope on a bit of flash that can be bought and sold. We’ve wanted so desperately to be someone that we’ve ended up being nobody where it counts.

To talk about public images is to talk about a trick of the light, a moment of illusion on a flickering screen, and the terrible reality that follows is a blank, white sheet on which nothing is written. We read every other day about somebody who has won it all-success, money, fame, we read that such a person has just blown his brains out and we wonder why.
The celebrity who gets up in the morning and looks in the mirror to brush his teeth, doesn’t see a celebrity staring back at him. He sees a face with a new broken capillary, a loose filling that needs fixing, and skin that is drying up and dying.

Impatient for result, our generation has built without foundation, choosing display over truth, and we’ve respected ourselves so little that we now seem hell bent on destruction. It’s an awfully religious thing to say in an irreligious age, but we have not been looking into our souls.

We’ve got to learn to look at the whole of ourselves, the bad and the good and the in-between, for it’s all a part of the mystery and the miracle of life. We all start out with this incredible gift in us. We can grow and we can learn. We are capable of compassion and hope and love. We must cherish our life for what it is, sad and gay and funny and awful and tragic and a triumph. We will all stand too soon at the dark brink of eternity and how terrible it must be to look back at all those years and all those days and say, “But none of it was me.” Each hour of each day we make the small choices that add up to a lifetime. We must learn to choose those things that embrace life, and then, when we’re making ourselves into somebody, it’ll be somebody worth being.


And now our Pip pictures of the day. Don't forget to click on them for high resolution versions!

Anderson and Jeff Corwin in Thailand

Jeff Corwin in Madagascar

Anderson Cooper in Brazil
CNN Worldwide – All Rights Reserved 2007©
*Disclaimer* We are using an excerpt of this magazine article under the Fair Use act. This excerpt is less than the amount legally allowable*


ACAnderFan said...

Great post purple tie :)

I love Wyatt's style of writing. He is so descriptive and what he says makes sense. It's like he's speaking to you. I think he is a better writer than Andy. But I think we know where Andy got his writing talent from.

Those PIP pics are cute!!! That first one... I love the turtle :) and the second just funny. Jeff is such a!!! And the third so pretty with all the green plants. The landscapape in PIP looks amaing :)

Quitty said...

Timeless...Either he was ahead of his time like you said or human nature is the same as it's always been. I love this line: "Each of us is unique. Each of us happens only once in all eternity and we have a right to cherish our specialness."

Thank you strawberrybanana.

bluediamond (Jennifer) said...

@ Purple Tie, I really like your post tonight it was very interesting. I haven't got the book about Families I'm sure it's well worth reading. I want to get it so bad, but I haven't been able to yet.

Sounds like that Wyatt was a very intelligent and interesting person that makes me want to read the book that much more. Those PIP pictures those are really awesome!!!!

Kara said...

Just want to say that I'm constantly in awe of the work done by the writers and commenters who contribute to this blog. Every day, I'm blown away by the depth of content and beautiful photographs. I think this site is a true relection of who Anderson Cooper is and what he means to his fans: it's done with integrity and honesty, with hard work and also a sense of fun and humor, just like AC! Even if we don't all agree on a certain subject, no one feels intimiated to speak their mind. Anyway, getting ready to start another long work-week, but wanted to give a shout out of thanks for all the hard work!!!!!!!!!!!

Em said...

It is sad that Anderson lost his father at such a young age. How wonderful that he can read articles like this that teach the lessons we would all like our children to learn.

Purple Tie said...

Thanks a lot Kara! We all put a lot of effort into the blog but we love it. I know we all love hearing from our readers :)

I agree that it's so nice for Anderson to have the writings of his father. It's a like a special gift that Wyatt left for his family.

Aruna said...

What a fantastic article. Thanks for the find, and how nice of you to share with all of us :)

Sapphire said...

Wow Purple Tie....great post. Thanks to strawberrybanana (ummm now I want a smoothie :P) for sharing this great find. I always enjoy reading pieces written by Wyatt. He was a fantastic and gifted writer.

Great PIP pics today....something about that Jeff pic makes me giggle :P

Nebraska Fan said...

Thank you for another of Wyatt's wonderful writings. It struck me today as I was reading it how much of his thoughts, ideals, heart, just himself as a person that he reveals in each of these writings. How many of us will ever know our fathers that well? Unfortunately, probably not many since men of past generations never believed in "feelings". I have become closer to my dad the past few years, and I'm grateful for that, but I will never have such an insight into his soul that Anderson has into his dad's, and I've had mine for 39 years. It's beautiful, really, how because of his writings he will be able to share himself with his family always.

Phebe said...

What a wonderful article. Thanks to Strawberrybanana for the find and to Purple Tie for posting.
@pebbles thank you for the links. I will post them in tonight's post.

beachlzrd said...

Hi Purple Tie - happy MONDAY!

I don't know where you got that piece, but how wonderful for you to share with us - THANK YOU!

Wyatt certainly was was something!

VERY insightful!

Have a great day,

Pati Mc said...

That man is remarkable to say the least. I wish I could have known him.

On the other hand, in a way I do know him. Not only does Anderson resemble his Dad physically, but he surely has many of Wyatt's remarkable inner qualities as well - at least to me, it seems obvious that he does. His writing clearly shows it.

That one family includes two such rare and wonderful men in unreal.

God Bless them both. It seems to me that Wyatt almost knew that he needed to leave these lessons in life for Anderson. How beautiful that his words live on to teach us all.

Thanks strawberrybanana and Quitty for this godsend. So timely!

cactuskid said...

What a kind and gentle man Wyatt must have been! His writing just captures you. I am so glad Anderson has all of these memories that Wyatt left him so he can go back and reread and reconnect with his father. What a blessing and a treasure that must be for him!

Anonymous said...

Wyatt's writing style is very unique, but not compared with Anderson's. Both men have different writing style, but they are natural born writer.

That's PIP pics are awesome!!!

Hearing impaired gal