I was looking out the window the other day in an unfamiliar setting. It’s winter and the trees are bare. There was a thorny bush outside the window. I figured it was some kind of rose, but I couldn’t say for certain. Next to that was a holly bush. I noticed how, as I looked at the unfamiliar and unnamed bush I liked it, but as soon as I saw the bush I had a name for, it was as if I had connected with an old friend in an unfamiliar place.
It was like a little hello.
If one reads a copious amount of books full of myths and fairy tales and fantasy and magic, it’s always said that names have power. Often there are helpers along the way who never give their name and sometimes are insulted when asked. Usually the “magic” people or the “wise” ones. Also, the tricksters and other heroes. Often the hero (heroine) is warned not to give their real name. Sometimes, they are given nicknames to protect their given name. To protect their soul name.
The name that is their true self and the name if given away gives others power over them.
Now, maybe that’s a big digression from a Sunday morning reflection, but I wanted to start us thinking about names. The power of words. The power that our words have on ourselves and one another. The power of the intention behind our words.
And the power of names and naming things. Naming and renaming. PAUSE to reflect.
The Bible is full of nuggets that might help us to reflect on the something more. In this reading (and I left this part out this morning), usually we are focused on God finding a partner for the man. It’s the focus on Adam and Eve, the humans. But in this little nugget we might also look at the importance of what we might call the more than human world.
And all of these things are important. Each one is “good”. The Day and the Night. The Sky and the Earth. The Seas. The Plants: the trees, the herbs, the fruits, and the seeds. The Sun and the Moon. The Animals: the birds, the fish, the mammals, the reptiles. It all was “good”.
It all is Good.
Each “thing” is there to make up the whole.
Mankind is entrusted with dominion and the naming of things. There’s been a long, long, long, long…long history of dominion over the earth, the plants, the creatures, and other human beings. A long history of emperors and kings and those in power who profited from this dominion. A long history of those in power shutting down the point of view that perhaps the story isn’t about dominion in the way it’s used to justify horrific acts against one another and the Earth and the more than human world.
I think that’s a lot of where Jesus comes in…to remind us of Love and responsibility. For everyone and take it a step further, everything.
If everything is good and part of God’s creation, perhaps dominion means something more like caretakers. That the human world is the one charged with the responsibility of taking care of God’s work. Not taking from God’s gifts, but protecting God’s gifts.
I’m going to read a small excerpt from What the Robin Knows by Jon Young.
“If one day I see a small bird and recognize it, a thin thread will form between me and that bird. If I just see it but don’t really recognize it, there is no thin thread. If I go out tomorrow and see and recognized that same individual small bird again, the thread will thicken and strengthen just a little. Every time I see and recognize that bird, the thread strengthens. Eventually it will grow into a string, then a cord, and finally a rope.”
This is what it means to name things.
To recognize things.
To create ropes, webs, connection between all of Creation.
BIG PAUSE to reflect.
We know this. Just put up a bird feeder and watch who shows up. We begin to name things and learn things. That’s a bluejay. That’s a chickadee. That’s a tufted titmouse. That’s a red squirrel. That’s a grey squirrel. Oooh, a woodpecker. A cardinal. How often do those little cardinals remind us of lost loved ones? PAUSE. A hummingbird. An oriole. A swallow.
We learn that chickadees have brains that grow in size over the summer so that they can remember where every cache of seeds is hidden. We learn that squirrels hide hoards and hoards of seeds because they won’t remember anything.
We feel the threads that begin to strengthen to the other creatures around us. The more than human world.
We create ropes, webs, connection between all of Creation.
We know this.
We have our special friends. Maybe it’s the pair of cardinals that we’ve named. Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal. We learn that they mate for life. Maybe it’s the eagle that soars over a familiar place. Maybe it’s a pair of loons. An owl that visits frequently. The squirrel with a missing tail. We see them, and recognize them, and perhaps we name them. Name and rename.
The connections and threads thicken.
We create ropes, webs, connection between all of Creation.
PAUSE to reflect.
Maybe that’s what God meant when God gave mankind the task of naming things. Not to control and dominate, but to recognize and see. To connect. To protect what we love. Man isn’t meant to be alone and perhaps the more than human world is part of the gift of company. If you like, reread some of the verses leading up to the one we read. God is finding humans company.
When we name and recognize things, it is harder to take advantage and exploit…our friends. The land they live on. The world they depend on. Maybe it’s in our nature to protect others before ourselves…and so we must connect…
PAUSE to reflect.
Thread and connections.
The same could be said of our human companions. The more we see and recognize one another, the harder it is to disconnect. The harder it is to exploit, to judge, to harm…
The less we recognize another, the easier it is to disconnect. We see this in our social media settings…there’s a definite disconnect of things we would’t say in person (when named and recognized) but we will say to someone we don’t know, haven’t named, don’t recognize. PAUSE
Recently, I had a conversation around someone who thought differently than the “group” or the “accepted” way of thinking in the group. Instead of connecting, and listening, disconnection happened. That person was pushed from the conversation and group. No longer welcome or loved. What was interesting is that in this scenario, the other person wasn’t on the complete other side of the issue…they had simply brought up hard concerns that they thought should be addressed instead of swept away as if the problems to be solved didn’t exist. That hard part.
We don’t have to always agree. In fact, we shouldn’t. It would be a little scary if we only engaged with people who exactly agreed with us.
And the more distant someone is from us…that annoying person on social media. That group of people over there. The newscaster who is a (blank). That clerk who is always grumpy. The guy in the other car who is always driving either too slow or too fast or too recklessly.
What if we saw other people?
Recognized them as fellow people on the journey?
Learned their names and their stories?
Every person. Every creature. Every plant.
Then the threads of connection get thicker and we are stronger.
Maybe each person is put on our path to help us grow and to grow together.
Perhaps the naming of things is to remind us to see one another. Perhaps the naming of things in not to hold dominion and create a hierarchy. It’s all Good. But to know one another and to know that we are all connected. Human. More than Human. All of it. It’s all Good.
Perhaps our job is to protect it all and everyone.
Perhaps our job is to Love it all and everyone.