Thursday, May 2, 2024

#123 / Let's Take "Being Important" Seriously

Ugo Betti, pictured and quoted above, was an Italian judge, and one of Italy's greatest playwrights. He is one of my favorites. I have mentioned Ugo Betti many times in my daily blog postings. You can click right here for a reference to one of those blog postings, from 2022. There are lots of other ones!

Almost always, when I mention Betti, I cite to a specific passage from one of Betti's plays, "The Burnt Flower-Bed." Click that link to take you to a review of the play in The Harvard Crimson. If you click this link, you'll be able to see a picture of one production of the play, from the digital collections of the New York Public Library.

Here is my favorite Ugo Betti quote, once again: 

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 person must be persuaded - even if he is in rags - that he's immensely, immensely important (emphasis added)!

Now, it is my observation that very few of us really believe that we are "important." Even fewer of us, I think, would describe ourselves as "immensely, immensely important." 

Yet.... don't we actually all believe that Ugo Betti is right? Don't you - be honest - actually think (don't you actually know) that you are, in fact, "important"?

Maybe I am wrong, and maybe you don't think of yourself as "important," and it is probably wise to be wary. Certainly a sense of "self-importance" can spiral out of control, all too easily. For example, while I wasn't thinking of one of our former presidents when I started out writing the sentence that I have just ended, now I am. There are obvious dangers of taking that, "I am important" realization to the wrong conclusion. At any rate, while it may be self-contradictory, I do think that most of us both doubt our own importance while, at the same time, we know that our importance is real - and our knowledge that we are "important" is perhaps one of the most significant things we can say about ourselves, as we consider what it means to be alive. 

If we can admit our own importance, without succumbing to a false self-deprecation or to an erroneous grandiosity, we have the basis for understanding the essential foundation of what I call "self-government." We are important (I am important, and you are, too); therefore, I should be running the place. That is the conclusion that I think flows naturally from our understanding of our own importance - if we take our importance seriously.

Of course, one of the secrets to avoiding a sense of self-importance that can spiral out of control, and that can lead to a destructive sense of grandiosity, is to realize that not only am I important, but to realize, at the very same time, that everyone else is important, too - just as important as I am (but not any more important). We are all important, and we are all "in this together." 

If you can accept and believe that you are "important," and if you think seriously about how the world is structured and operates (since the structure and operations of the world do, so obviously, impact you), then you will come to the realization, quite often, that you should be "in charge." This is not an erroneous conclusion.

It's "complicated," though, since, as our Declaration of Independence recognizes, all persons are "created equal." We all should be "in charge," and, of course, it turns out that we don't all have the same idea about what we should do. We are all quite different, and we all have different ideas. That is what Hannah Arendt calls "plurality." 

Given that fact, what can we do if we want to take seriously - as we should - the idea that we are "important"? Is there some workable way to answer Rodney King's very legitimate question, "can't we all just get along?"

"Politics" is our solution, what I generally call "self-government," and we can't actually have "self-government" unless we get involved ourselves

You are important! Take that seriously. Don't let other people run the world upon which you and everything you love and value depends. 

Get engaged in self-government!

Believe me (and I speak from experience), you can make big changes if you do!!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!