Applauding Neruda for expressing me(and everyone) so aptly

We Are Many

Of the many men whom I am, whom we are,
I cannot settle on a single one.
They are lost to me under the cover of clothing
They have departed for another city.

When everything seems to be set
to show me off as a man of intelligence,
the fool I keep concealed on my person
takes over my talk and occupies my mouth.

On other occasions, I am dozing in the midst
of people of some distinction,
and when I summon my courageous self,
a coward completely unknown to me
swaddles my poor skeleton
in a thousand tiny reservations.

When a stately home bursts into flames,
instead of the fireman I summon,
an arsonist bursts on the scene,
and he is I. There is nothing I can do.
What must I do to distinguish myself?
How can I put myself together?

All the books I read
lionize dazzling hero figures,
brimming with self-assurance.
I die with envy of them;
and, in films where bullets fly on the wind,
I am left in envy of the cowboys,
left admiring even the horses.

But when I call upon my DASHING BEING,
out comes the same OLD LAZY SELF,
and so I never know just WHO I AM,
nor how many I am, nor WHO WE WILL BE BEING.
I would like to be able to touch a bell
and call up my real self, the truly me,
because if I really need my proper self,
I must not allow myself to disappear.

While I am writing, I am far away;
and when I come back, I have already left.
I should like to see if the same thing happens
to other people as it does to me,
to see if as many people are as I am,
and if they seem the same way to themselves.
When this problem has been thoroughly explored,
I am going to school myself so well in things
that, when I try to explain my problems,
I shall speak, not of self, but of geography.

By Pablo Neruda

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4 thoughts on “Applauding Neruda for expressing me(and everyone) so aptly

  1. I’m a little surprised you went for Neruda’s elucidation of the problem. It seems a particularly masculine framing of a universal dilemma – especially in verses 5 & 6.

    I think a lot of our pain comes from trying to imagine ourselves into unrealistic archetypes, but for guys in particular, the action hero ready lay down his expendable life and resort to simple, ever-effective violence to protect home, hearth, women, children, tradition, whatever … is an especially toxic but seductive one. It comes in lots of models too.

    • Well i’m not very girly. But yes you’re right.
      Even if in masculine framing, it’s still universal as you yourself said. It hits all the right notes and perhaps women find that image seductive as well.

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