“That’s an Allosaurus, not a T-Rex. A T-Rex doesn’t have little horns on his head, and he was bigger.”
When A was small, he knew every name of every dinosaur. Every single one. He was able to detect the slightest difference in crested dinosaurs; he knew which lived in Jurassic and which in Cretaceous periods. He knew the Lambeosaurus as opposed to the Corythosaurus. A didn’t just know them intellectually, but appreciated them, and loved to name them whenever the opportunity presented itself. But this post isn’t about dinosaurs; it is, however, about naming things.
When early spring arrives through red buds and daffodils, when tiny green leaves, mere infants, show themselves on nature trails, do we love their beauty any more if we know their names? If I can claim acquaintance to the tufted titmouse, or greet the American Sycamore in passing, will I care for them to any greater degree? I think the answer is yes!
It may be difficult to discern whether we love the things we name and label, or whether we label the things we love. Likely it is both. In forming our mouth around the verbal symbols for the cosmos bipinnatus, or the name of the dish we ate when we first discovered we loved curry, we call those words and their antecedents into our very heart and soul.
If you are unsure if you agree, think of humanity’s (adam’s) first, God-given task.
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
In the Lord God’s love for the people he created, he gave them the gift of creativity in naming the things around them. In labeling the lion and the rabbit, Adam loved them and created a relationship with them. It is the first recorded incident of humanity engaged in what J.R.R. Tolkien classified as being “sub creators.” In this act Adam learns what it is to create and hope for a relationship. His mouth forms the name “deer” and “porcupine.” From the loving dentals to appreciative plosives, naming what we see helps to build on our pre-existing love, and in turn, connects us even more firmly in our relationship.
If you are someone who grew up with Pixar or Harry Potter (or are a parent of one from that generation) you intuitively know this to be true. Remember Mike Wazowski’s horrified reaction when he discovered Sully had named the little girl “Boo?” Or how Hagrid’s eyes filled with tears when he disclosed the fire-breathing hatchling, not as a Norwegian Ridgeback, but as “Norbert?”
When we name something we acknowledge it, and often grow closer to it. God creates something new even today when we make the crucial decision to follow Christ. Although he rested on the seventh day, he was not finished with his work. Every day we are a part of becoming his new creation, and like Adam we can name what we see and claim it as good.
When I see my brothers and sisters in Christ I can call out their names. “You are selfless,” and “You are gracious,” or “You are courageous.” I can call them out as A called out the names of the dinosaurs he loved. Instead of diplodocus, I look at you and say “compassionate” and “faithful.” In doing so, our relationship is sealed. I love you for these named qualities, but I also call them out of you because I have loved you already.
May He continue to create in all of us and may we never stop naming the good, and labeling our loves.