Naming Nature

Is giving a name an act of power or an act of respect? You might call that a sparrow, but what name would she give herself, and what name might God give her? When Adam named the animals in the bible story of Eden, was he taking power over them or establishing a relationship with them and studying them to tell the difference between, say, a house sparrow and a hedge sparrow? How might the names we use for other beings affect our relationship with them?

On Sunday 8th April, we headed into the woods and tried this exercise in attentiveness – attentiveness both to the beings who live in the woods and to ourselves. Between us we came up with some names for trees and plants that were much more interesting than their usual common names – like ‘shivery holy spirit tree’ for a beech sapling still holding on to last year’s leaves, which were shivering despite there being very little breeze. It was interesting to think about discovering something’s true being and therefore its true name. Just the act of studying a plant intently felt like deepening respect for it. We also thought about God calling us by name and the respect that God therefore has for each of us.

Tree-Sparrow

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