Why We All Have Names

There is an urge to name things. Everything. We cannot escape it, it is part of how we organise the world around us and our place in it. The names encapsulate everything we know about something and as philosophers have told us for centuries, all we don’t know. We think because something has a name and we can attach ideas of that thing to the name, that we understand what a table is, what a chair is, want an aunt is. But we only get a workable understanding.

Since everything changes, and since words can be infinitely defined because we all possess our own, unique understanding of anything, what we are doing is working in a shorthand that enables us to get along together in something resembling concerted effort. Until we don’t.

Then we find out how differently we all view each other. Then we discover we have all been using the same words to mean slightly different things. And worse, words we use have been chosen for us to conjure up specific understanding. Brainwashing if you like.

So we name each other but we don’t understand each other and we name the things around us but we still have a long way to go to understand the material world.

Soothing Music

When I attended musical appreciation at school the scientist in the group came up with a definition of music – ‘noise with rhythm’. Our teacher refined that to ‘noise with rhythm meant to be listened to’.

I remember thinking the definition was incomplete for how was this different to language? The ideas around meaning came later to me when I was actually at university and not in a general studies course during A Levels. We are bound to seek for a meaning, in everything. That is why we have music because we imbue noise with rhythm and listen to it for pleasure or warning. That is why we have gods, to explain our feelings of insecurity and explain away our fears of death.

We can always come up with a trite definition that strips the humanity away from the defined. But then we lose the fact we are humans being very human. And since we are the foundation of every definition we need a clear definition of who we are first, before the definitions of anything else can make any sense at all.

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February 2019
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