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.