Monday, October 30, 2023

#303 / Houston, Texas Meets Ugo Betti


Because our major newspapers tend to protect their websites from perusal by non-subscribers, I am often compelled to tell anyone who is reading one of my blog posts that there is a potential "Paywall Permitting" problem with respect to one or more of the links I might have included in one of my comments. Today, for instance, I would like to suggest that you click the following link to read an article from the Tuesday, July 11, 2023, edition of The Wall Street Journal. The article I have linked is titled, "Houston's 'Be Someone' Mystery." That's the hard-copy version of the headline. 

Depending on what The Wall Street Journal lets you see, clicking on that link might let you experience a changing collage of various views of the railroad bridge shown above - even if The Journal doesn't let you read the actual story, which describes the mystery of who has painted (and keeps repainting) that "Be Someone" advisory on the railroad bridge which you can see above. It's a pretty interesting story! Here are the first few lines: 

Tens of thousands of drivers pass under a Union Pacific rail bridge tagged with a big, blocky exhortation as they travel southbound on Interstate 45 every day.
“Be Someone,” it says.
It first appeared more than a decade ago. It’s been painted over with other graffiti multiple times, but “Be Someone” has always reappeared. The message resonates in Houston, a freewheeling city with no zoning and an entrepreneurial spirit that attracts people from all over the world looking to make their bones. It has inspired photos, tattoos and even a failed petition to protect it as a city landmark.
Keaton Jones, a 27-year-old rapper who goes by the name Lowkea, drives under the bridge on his way to work at his dad’s industrial-supply company in downtown Houston.
“It says so little, just two words,” Jones said. “It’s very powerful. It tells you to be someone, not just anybody.”
And just who is that someone who first painted the slogan? That’s an enduring mystery that has only gotten juicier in the past few months. 
Who wrote the "Be Someone" advisory is less important, I think, than whether or not that's good advice. I do think it is good advice, though some caution should be used in trying to apply that directive in real life. It's pretty easy to understand this "Be Someone" exhortation as an invitation to the kind of extreme individualism that many believe is an important clue to what life is all about. 
We should all "Be Someone," I agree, but remember that we are "in this together," and that every one of us is "Someone." We are all important persons. The command to "Be Someone" should not be taken as a suggestion that you should "Be Someone" who is separate from and better than everyone else. 

This caution, I think, is particularly important when we realize that the "Be Someone" mystery sign is found in Texas, which does have a reputation for the kind of "individualism" that suggests that we should each elevate ourselves above all those other people who are different from us, and who (we can let ourselves think) are just not quite as "great," or as "important," or as "worthy" as we have come to think of ourselves. Mix in differences of race, economics, and gender and you begin to see the possible scope of a huge misunderstanding.

When I read the story in The Wall Street Journal, I was reminded of one of my earliest blog postings, published on March 25, 2010. Ugo Betti, an Italian playwright (and a judge, by the way), wrote a play called The Burnt Flower-Bed. It contains these lines: 

That's what's needed, don't you see? That! Nothing else matters half so much. To reassure one another. To answer each other. Perhaps only you can listen to me and not laugh. Everyone has, inside himself ... what shall I call it? A piece of good news! Everyone is ... a very great, very important character! Yes, that's what we have to tell them up there! Every man must be persuaded - even if he is in rags - that he's immensely, immensely important!
Betti, I think, conveys the "Be Someone" message as it ought to be understood. And it is such a vitally important message, too!  EVERYONE ... is "Someone." EVERYONE is a "very great, very important character." 

Let's see if we can all internalize that message. You are "Someone." You are important. We are important! We are each "Someone." 

If we actually start to believe that, then we will have to change the world, won't we? Because what's going on, right at the moment, what we are permitting to exist right now, just isn't acceptable, is it? It just isn't worthy of the important "Someones" we are. It just isn't right!

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