Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Dust to Dust

19:23:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , 5 comments

There is power in knowing someone's name. Likewise, we strive to have our names recognized and remembered, mostly for positive reasons. The name as a tool of power is interesting because, as Shelley reveals, it is commonly believed that longevity of name equals a testament to power. Most poets would like to think that, after their words are read, their name is remembered favourably.

But what of the danger of a high profile? The more well known you are, the more pressure there is to live up to the, true or not, associations with that name. A famous family name can be a curse as well as a gift. Names can expand to blanket future generations with the shadows of the past.

The story of Eros and Psyche shows the flipside; the power inherent in anonymity. Eros demanded to be anonymous to his lover. Although Psyche loved him, she could never know who he was. This, of course, led to doubt. Eventually, persuaded that horrors lurked behind the anonymity, Psyche chose knowledge (and, arguably, equality) over blind love.

The unknown does not sit easily with us. Despite the promise of bliss, we choose knowledge over heaven. But we can't know everything. What if we decided to not know? What if we chose to not be named? Given our enduring need to commuicate ever more precisely, to know each other more fully, I doubt that anonymity will ever satisfy us. But perhaps transient knowledge is preferable to names carved in stone.

Here's to paper, to water soluble ink, and here's to time's forgetfulness.



Lara Clayton said...

I love how I can just fall into your posts and be completely absorbed.

Colin Davies said...

The power of names is held in demonology also. The summon and defeat a demon you must know their real name.

These "true" names are a closely guarded secret.

Christo said...

For purely practical reasons, a tutor when I was at teacher training college drummed into us how important it is for a teacher to memorise pupil/student names as quickly and accurately as possible, though even at grammar school I was sometimes referred to as "Boy!!!" very dismissively.

I feel that building a person-to-person relationship with members of a class or social group of any sort signifies respect and interest, and I try hard to learn how people wish to be addressed as early as possible in our relationship.

The "Speccy" I used to get from some at junior school never amused me as it did them, and our son hated being called Carrot-Top because of very orange hair and a face full of freckles (now thankfully long faded).

Using only nicknames strikes me as the most certain sign of sloth and woeful ignorance.

vicky ellis said...

I hadn't thought about how powerful false names can be. There is a real power in being the namer of names.

Christo said...

Hi, Vicky - I have been impressed "for many moons" with the thought that goes into naming their children by Native Americans - often based on the physical or spiritual characteristics that the parents hope their offspring will grow into displaying.
It was not until I lived in Hall when I went to Reading Uni that I shared a corridor with African students many of whom retained their tribal names - a neighbour was called Adekunle Adewale - but many others had been deliberately Westernised/Anglicised, most splendidly another friend of the time, named Winston Edinburgh because his parents believed that if he was to prosper in Britain he must carry in his identity both Winston Churchill and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Names signify wealth. power and aspiration - in Latin America, Jesus is more common than Juan, I believe.