Friday, February 08, 2008

Whispering Ghosts.

Today was a good day. I hung out, I helped, I went to meeting, but the second best thing I did today was go to the Snow Bowl. We played Ultimate Frisbee today on a clean blanket of fun. Oh, was the snow enjoyable. You see, when the field is snowy, you don't have to worry about sliding as much. You slide more, but sliding and falling doesn't hurt, because instead of falling and stopping, you slide and bleed out some momentum that way. Does anyone know what I mean here? Ultimate was awesome. I was trying not to be too enthusiastic about it so as not to bum out the people that couldn't go, but it just rocked. And I played pretty well, so that's always a plus.

A couple of years ago, I was at a sort-of party, it was a potluck where we were playing games. It wasn't my turn, and I started to kind of zone out. In fact, I totally zoned out, and had a moment where I didn't know who I was, or where I was. It lasted about 5 seconds, I was kind of freaked, then I remembered I was at a potluck, then who I was. It kind of freaked me out, though, to not even know my own name.

I was at an orientation a couple years ago, and they were talking about maintaining discipline in the class. One of the things the leader suggested that we do was call misbehaving kids out by name because names are power. They assign responsibility, and call attention.

I think American culture has lost a lot of the richness of names that there was to be found, and is to be found in other cultures. To us, names are merely identifiers, labels of a sort. Back in the older times, a name was power. It defined a person, and when significant enough events occurred in one's life, one's name could be changed. Now, in American culture presently, the only name changes are for purposes of becoming lost, or becoming married.

I've also been reading Vernor Vinge's True Names, in which a True Name is distinguished from an 'online' or virtual-world name. And a true name is power, because it is control over the individual. This harkens back to an earlier idea, I think a druidic idea, that everything has a true name, a name that can grant an individual absolute power over a thing that he learns the true name of. This theme is also present, as I recall, in the Earthsea novels by Le Guin.

And make no mistake, names are power. Names cause the world to recognize, they cause the different to be recognized. Names identify the guilty, and give hope to the innocent. Names relay a picture of a person to those who know them. Names find.

in some worlds, names begin to lose their significance. We're traded in for a number, a different identifier. To some, that seems dehumanizing. To others, progress.

I never liked my full name growing up. Probably because my full name only got used when I was in trouble. Now, I wonder, is my name me? Does my name define me?

No. In fact, only one name should define me. And it's not mine. Lost was I, but no longer.

All I have been given in this world is more than a king could ever wish for.

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