January 14, 2017

“What’s your name,’ Coraline asked the cat. ‘Look, I’m Coraline. Okay?’ ‘Cats don’t have names,’ it said. ‘No?’ said Coraline. ‘No,’ said the cat. ‘Now you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.” ― Neil Gaiman, Coraline

In my little town all the street names are in Hawaiian and refer to birds.  The Kauai Elepaio is a small little flycatcher and is only found here.

The Io is a hawk that now is only found on the Big Island

They are both disappearing…

So what is in a name?  Do we have names so that even once we are gone we are remembered? Do we have names so that we come when called?  Before humans came did the ocean have a name? The mountains?  Were birds called birds?  It seems to me there must have just been existence.  Weren’t they just present in the moment not identified by any name or past or future?  When humans started to appear  wasn’t their concern to live and procreate, nothing more.   As we evolved into what we are, yes the brains grew and we began to name; but even when the first naturalists set out to identify new things…they were observing life in the moment.

“We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas.” ― Alan W. Watts

I have written a lot about finding myself, authenticity, and shedding expectations.  I have discovered that no matter what my name everyone has a different idea of who I am.  Instead of being observed in the moment, like a naturalists does nature, the mention of my name conjures up the assumptions based on past or the opinion others have of me; not reality.

Over the 2016 holiday we had a reunion Christmas of almost 40 people to celebrate the family that we were with the one we had become. Reunions are always synonymous with a name, and in the beginning that is what it was. “We are the (inset name here).”  We spent four days in a huge cabin at the Estes Park Colorado YWCA and I thought it would be full of conversations about the past.  There were some of course, but the majority was spent living in the moment and talking about who we are now.  All who attended took four days to spend together, to know each other again as we are, not as we were.  For me it was truly enlightening to hear what others thought of my life even though I was not asked much about it; to hear and share our personal battles with the expectations of the “name”; to finally understand I was and am not alone in the struggle to live up to it while trying to forge my own.  I came away free of trying to be what I think others want; came away with a sense of self.  Proud of the name but not needing it.

A memory made that will not be forgotten, not because of a picture, but because we were ever absorbed in the moment.

I was not named for four days…perhaps that is why I have had such a time figuring out who I am?  But I’m kind of getting to be like the cat, I’m starting to know who I am, so whatever I am called doesn’t seem to bother me any more.  I am me, not who you think I am, not who I think you think I am, just who I am…and I don’t think that can be summed up in just my name.

So what is in a name? Well, it seems to me that a name is only needed for reference when speaking of someone or something other than self.   The elepaio does not know that is its name and just goes on existing as it is, in the moment.  A name will not make you immortal, it will go on your tombstone, or a street sign; will just be a reference. Just ask the Io, who does not exist here anymore.  The memories made by being present with your whole essence and what you DO in the moment is what will make the name.

Photo credit: K.K.

Io and Elepaio Photos: Wikipedia

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