Names and Namers

Shortly after my daughter learned to talk, she began to name things. If we went to a restaurant, the salt and pepper shakers had names, genders, a back story and a relationship drama by the time we got our salads. Our household got into the habit of naming, and it stuck. Our cell phones, cars, musical instruments and appliances still have names today, and I would not be surprised to see us surrounded by named objects decades from now.

Some cultures believe that we humans have several names. One might be our commonly known name, another for friends and family, another a secret name used only in spiritual ceremonies. Some cultures change or alter a person’s name as they complete rites of passage. In Norman Spinrad’s Child of Fortune, a person chooses his or her adult name only when grown, often in homage to a present or past role model or an abstract concept that speaks to who they want to be.

Why am I thinking about names today? In Fear Not? I wrote about needing to huddle around the fire of the Self when fearing annihilation. Needing to feed that fire. I’m thinking about names because the spiritual act of naming is one way of feeding that anti-nothingness.

If you have a specific way of worshipping, there may be names involved that are important to you. Whether or not you see other names as valid too, your names matter to you. You wouldn’t be as fulfilled by conducting rituals addressed to Hey, you! or To Whom it May Concern.

Some of you may know Meg from the classic A Wrinkle in Time, an iconic story blending science fiction, philosophy and spirituality. The lesser-known sequel, A Wind in the Door, is well worth reading and explores the concepts further. During the book, Meg finds herself working with a strange being whose most recent assignment was to memorize the names of all the stars. Her new partner tells her she must be a Namer, too, if only a primitive one. He describes a Namer as someone who makes another more of who they are; more of themselves. Sees them. Meg is later called upon to use her Naming quality in defense of her own and others’ existence in a battle against annihilating entities. Naming proves to be the only defense against nothingness.

Names mean something because we make them mean something. We infuse them with psychic energy and give them soul. When building that fire of the Self, we fuel it with Names. Names of deities, if that’s our thing. Names of ideas and passions. Names of beloved or inspirational characters. A whole story, or myth, or dream can be a Name, and we can be Namers when we tell it.

4 responses to “Names and Namers

  1. What about when we name something, or even another person, and perhaps assign a name that person didn’t choose for themselves? Would you say there might be a problem to assigning names and back stories to beings? I think assigning a Name to a salt shaker is fairly benign, but I would love to hear your thoughts on assigning names to people when they don’t choose that identifier for themselves.

    • I agree that there is a dark side to naming (and Naming, which I meant to come across as something different). That dark side is labeling and judging, which we all do. And the naming we do, even when benign, cannot help but be both subjective and projective because we as humans are incapable of true objectivity. The best we can do is acknowledge that we are seeing an incomplete picture of someone else and be open to more information, as well as realizing that who they are to themselves may be something different. When I took Diagnosis and Assessment it took us several classes to get our resistance to diagnostic labels out of our system with discussion before we were able to settle down and learn how diagnosis can be a valuable tool. These are some of my thoughts, and thanks for your thoughtful question.

  2. I’d be interested to read that book. I’ve always been curious about the meaning of names and am forever googling ‘baby name meaning’ when I meet someone new. I chose the name Phoenix for this blog because of what the phoenix represents. I think it’s not such a bad idea to re-name ourselves as we go through life.

  3. This was something really interesting. Names…have never thought about it that way..it is just something to denote our being..something that gives us the first sense of separateness.
    Once heard that a man gives his both the twins the same name, he says when they look the same, what difference will it make if they have diffferent names or same. When divine did not divide, why do we divide!!! That was on the lighter note…

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