“Words are simply the signs of things. But many people treat things as though they were the signs and illustrations of words.” Aldous Huxley
“To name a thing is to acknowledge its existence as separate from everything else that has a name; to confer upon it the dignity of autonomy while at the same time affirming its belonging with the rest of the namable world; to transform its strangeness into familiarity, which is the root of empathy. To name is to pay attention; to name is to love. Parents name their babies as a first nonbiological marker of individuality amid the human lot; lovers give each other private nicknames that sanctify their intimacy; it is only when we began naming domesticated animals that they stopped being animals and became pets. . . . And yet names are words, and words have a way of obscuring or warping the true meanings of their objects. ‘Words belong to each other,’ Virginia Woolf observed . . . and so they are more accountable to other words than to the often unnamable essences of the things they signify. . . . Naming is an act of redemption and a special form of paying attention, which [Robin Wall] Kimmerer captures beautifully:
Having words for these forms [of various mosses] makes the differences between them so much more obvious. With words at your disposal, you can see more clearly. Finding the words is another step in learning to see. . . . Having words also creates an intimacy with the plant that speaks of careful observation. . . . In indigenous ways of knowing, all beings are recognized as non-human persons, and all have their own names. It is a sign of respect to call a being by its name, and a sign of disrespect to ignore it. Words and names are the ways we humans build relationships . . . . Intimate connection allows recognition in an all-too-often anonymous world. . . . Intimacy gives us a different way of seeing.'” Maria Popova
“Whatever the man called each living creature,
that was its name.”
Genesis 2:19b NIV
“He saw an animal that liked to snort.
Horns on his head and they weren’t too short.
It looked like there wasn’t nothin’ that he couldn’t pull.
‘Ah, think I’ll call it a bull.”
Bob Dylan, “Man Gave Names To All the Animals”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Have you realized the predictable difference between “what something is” and “what it is to you”?
- Can you see how much power exists in naming? . . . both for great good and for great harm?
- Can you see how finding the right words can help you “see more clearly?” . . . love more readily?
Abba, break my addition to assumptions and labels for the sake of love.
For More: “Autism From the Inside” by Katherine May
Dylan, Bob. Lyrics: 1962-1985. New York: Knopf, 1985.
Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Gathering Mosses: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. Corvallis: Oregon State University, 2003.
“To become free does not mean becoming great in the world, not becoming free from your brother, nor even free from God, but to become free from oneself, one’s lie. It means to become free from thinking only of myself, from being the center of my world, from hate, by which I despise God’s creation. It means to be free to be for the other: the person for others. Only God’s truth can enable me to see the other as he really is. It tears out the twisted image that I have of the other within me and shows him to me in a new light. And insofar as God’s truth does that, it bestows upon me the action, the love, the grace of God. It destroys our lies and creates the truth. It destroys hatred and creates love. God’s truth is God’s love and God’s love makes us free from ourselves for others. To be free means nothing less than to be in love. And to be in love means nothing less than being in the truth of God. The man who loves because he has been made free by God is the most revolutionary man on earth. He challenges all values. He is the explosive material of human society. He is a dangerous man. For he recognizes that the human race is in the depths of falsehood. And he is always ready to let the light of truth fall upon his darkness; and he will do this because of his love. But this disturbance, which such people bring, calls forth hatred from the world. And therefore this knight of truth and love is not the hero that men long for or honor, not one who is without enemies; but one whom they would do away with, outlaw, indeed kill. The way of God’s truth leads to the cross. From now on, we know that all truth which is true before God must face the cross. The church that follows Christ must go with him to the cross.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Are you aware of sometimes having “a twisted image … of the other”–perhaps based on race, religion or social status?
- Will you “let the light of truth fall upon your darkness”–to free you to love?
- How would it make you feel to be described as “the person for others?”
- Are you free enough of yourself–”from being the center of your world, from hate”–to be that person?
Abba, free me of the lies I tell myself that ensnare me in hatred.
For More: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons edited by Edwin Robertson
Thanks for reading and sharing this blog. I appreciate your interest! – Bill