Thursday, June 18, 2015


I see animals. Many I know the names for: eagle, turkey, squirrel, raccoon. Some I don't know the name for. If they are striking, or strange, I might wonder what they're called. I might even carefully note the bronze sheen of the feathers and the curved, semi-predatory orange beak of a bird roosting over the shore of the river. I do this so I can consult with birders, books, and the Internet. I research and query. The bird is a bit like a duck crossed with a falcon, not too strange I think. But in all of our compiled knowledge and resources, such a bird does not, apparently, exist. It's a new animal. I did not expect to be in a position to name a new animal.

Shall I name it?

Calypso's duckling? 

Orange-throated riverbeast? 

Thatchcrested thondelmeyered greb?

I think not.

I protest generalization, and if I must name it I will call it Pooky. Its name alone.

The grouping of like items, birds, for instance, or art, books or fruit, is merely another mysterious failure of God. 

You think it had to be like this? Here is a thought for you:

Every time we resign ourselves to "It had to be like this", we kill a little piece of love.

Yes, generalization is irresistible in its power. We insanely clever humans, with our names and our art and our toxified aquifers, are not alone in employing this magnificent force of generalization. The zebra may see a lion he has never seen before and yet recognize it as a creature to exercise extreme caution around. The zebra recognizes the lion as a lion in order to stay alive. The zebra groups the lion, an individual, as a lion, one of an interchangeable kind, just like us, chatting here in intelligible symbols of lions. And so life carries on.

Oh aye it is a miracle, a thing of mighty wonder, a tool of such power that none of us could process or navigate the world without it. Categories! Groups! Systems! But I say to all you god lovers out there, and to anyone with an eye open, the world could have been better. The lion could have been Louise, and utterly irreducible. The zebra could have been Sven. The bird I saw by the river could have been its only one ever. And I could be me, and you could be you, and there could have been nothing made in all the universe that could break that utter autonomy.

Maybe, anyway, it is so.


  1. Perhaps not entirely relevant (sounds like elephant!). Let me start over...

    Perhaps not entirely elephant, I found a kitten yesterday morning in our driveway, hiding and meowing under my car. He ran to me when I called. I brought him in (which sounds like "I brought him in") and we have had him for 38 hours or so. We have asked neighbors, called the Humane Society, looked for signs, but nothing. We will likely keep him. He's unbearably (un-bear, like "not a bear") cute. Right away my younger son came in competing for naming rights. I claimed that right because I found him. My wife and other son also chimed in with ideas. We have yet to decide. He looks quite a bit like Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes; we thought maybe to call him something irreverent (not irrelevant, which sounds like irreverent), like Refrigerator. Jerry, too. I thought we might name him Devereux, which is the name of our street. But after all this we have decided not to name him until we are assured he's our new family member. In a week we will bring him to the vet (veterinarian, not someone who was in the military) for shots and a checkup. I will keep updated on the kitten and the naming process. It might come down to slips of paper in a hat (or, as they say in a vintage children's show, a "lid", as in "Lidsville").

    1. I am strangely excited by this news. I would think that I would be a strong advocate for Hobbes or Devereux, both of which names I like, but oddly I am very taken with "Jerry".

      I can see, anyway, how this is a bit on topic and also a bit off topic and I'm just fine with that, aren't I? You could name him Lion, or Time or Little God. Maybe the lidsville idea is good. Can Lion, Time, Jerry, Little God, Hobbes and Po all get a slip in the hat? How about Kvothe? China?

      Maybe you'd better name him and let us know.


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