Named

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“Stories are able to help us to become more whole, to become Named. And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos, we see despite all the chaos.”
― Madeleine L’EngleWalking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

I’ve been participating in a grand experiment on Twitter called #WalkMyWorld. It is part of my English class for graduate school. but my class is a small part of a much larger project. For several weeks, people from all over have posted pictures on Twitter with the hashtag Walk My World. We did this not knowing exactly what we would do with these pictures, but played along because grand experiments can be fun. (And because it is a class requirement, but I think I would have played along anyway.)

The experiment took a poetic turn in the fourth week. Using the poetry of Robert Hass, participants were instructed to consider one poem and describe how Hass uses everyday objects as poetic inspiration. My first thought was of William Carlos Williams and his poems about sweet plums and white chickens. As it turns out, Hass won  the William Carlos Williams award in 1979, so I was accurate in my reaction. Hass considers naming things a way to establish identity through one’s surroundings. Forrest Gander, in his critique of Hass’ Praise (1979) wrote, “Can the act of naming the world separate us from the world?”

Because I am currently reading and re-reading Madeleine L’Engle these days, that question captured me. How does giving something a name separate it from other things? And how does that separation identify us? L’Engle was a strong believer in the idea of Naming. The idea shows up in her work, both fiction and non-fiction. Naming something gives it a self, a life. It is part of what makes us, as humans, both unique and whole.

When we do the naming, then yes, we do separate ourselves from the world. Hass encounters a mockingbird, one distinct from all the others because it has interacted with him in his world by being seen. But it is still one of many mockingbirds.  He describes a family, their activity, their look, and their language. They are distinct from other families by being in his world, but unnamed, they blend in to the general observations of Hass. And then, Hass NAMES someone. John. A friend in crisis whom Hass is helpless to comfort. In naming his friend, Hass separates himself from the world in his immediate vision and transports himself wholly, if not physically, to join his friend in grief.  Relationship is revealed in the Naming.  Naming organizes the chaos of all we see so that we can focus on those things that matter most: the people in our lives with whom we share friendship, affection, sorrow, grief, and joy.

To be Named is a gift.

Resources:

McVerry, Greg. http://jgregorymcverry.com/walkmyworld-update/

Williams, William Carlos http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/119

Hass, Robert. “Letter to a Poet”. http://poetry.rapgenius.com/Robert-hass-letter-to-a-poet-annotated

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About mrsloomis

I am an accidental artist. I am an on-purpose teacher. I was terrible in art when I was in school. and I said more times than I can count, "I will NEVER be a teacher." God, in His divine sense of humor, has made sure I am now both artist and teacher. I teach high school literature and composition with a twist: I ignore standardized tests and teach my students to think critically from both sides of the brain. The left side analyzes the literature and composes mechanically accurate essays. The right side uses art and creative questioning to make the literature both relevant and exciting. So far, in 20 years, it seems to be working for me. My students consistently out-perform their peers in collegiate writing courses. My students also love learning, and taking ideas to a new a deeper level, which also serves them well in college and well beyond. Away from the classroom , I am passionate about my Lord, my family, my greyhounds, music, and naps. I love photography, digital art, running half marathons and just BEING. God is good, and I am blessed.

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