Daily Riches: Naming–The Root of Empathy and Intimacy (Maria Popova, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Bob Dylan)

“Words are simply the signs of things. But many people treat things as though they were the signs and illustrations of words.” Aldous Huxley

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“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

Daily Riches: No Outsiders, No “Others” (James Martin and Frederick Buechner)

“The movement of Jesus is always from the outside-in: welcoming, inviting, including. Jesus was always including people, bringing them in from the outside.  As James Alison has noted, for Jesus there was no “other.” All were welcome members of his community. By speaking to ‘outsiders,’ healing those who were not part of the Jewish community, as well as his ‘table fellowship’ with the outcasts, Jesus was embodying God’s hospitality. Jesus’s hospitality was the foundation of later patterns of Christian hospitality. In the Middle Ages, St. Benedict, in his set of rules for his religious order gave his monks the dictum, Hospes venit, Christus venit. ‘The guest comes, Christ comes.’ That is, for the Benedictines all guests were to be welcomed as Christ. In the 17th century, St. Alphonsus Rodríguez, a humble Jesuit brother, worked as a porter, or doorkeeper, at the Jesuit college of Majorca, in Spain. His job was to greet all the students, faculty and visitors who rapped on the great wooden door. The humble Jesuit brother had a wonderful way of reminding himself to be cheerful and hospitable to all visitors, and … welcome them as if they were Jesus himself. Upon hearing someone knocking on the door, he would say, ‘I’m coming, Lord!’” James Martin

“Jesus is apt to come, into the very midst of life at its most real and inescapable moments. Not in a blaze of unearthly light, not in the midst of a sermon, not in the throes of some kind of religious daydream, but … at supper time, or walking along a road. …He never approached from on high, but always in the midst, in the midst of people, in the midst of real life and the questions that real life asks.” Frederick Buechner

  “I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
Jesus in Matthew 25:35

“you are no longer foreigners and strangers….”
Ephesians 2:19

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Who are the “foreigners and strangers” in your world? Do you think of them as treasured and loved by Jesus?
  • Do you have elevated expectations of how Jesus would appear, should he appear to you? Would you expect it to be obvious?
  • In Sunday morning church, do you have the attitude, “The guest comes. Christ comes.”?

Abba, don’t let me forget when I was a stranger. Don’t ever let me forget that feeling.

For More: Between Heaven and Mirth by James Martin

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

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