Why do we name other organisms? I call the trees swaying in the header of this section Dancing Trees, on account of their joyful, fancy dance moves. I imagine they look just as cartoonish and lively on ‘shrooms.
This here is Ribbon Candy Plant because she reminds me of those awful candies that used to sit on a small pewter serving platter at my grandparents’ house. Grammy must have dusted them because I never saw anyone attempt to consume one.
Bushy Tree, there, is another character in the yard. He’s not quite a Muppet, but close enough. I wonder how tall and wide he’ll grow, or if this is it. He hasn’t said.
These names are every bit as valid as their scientifically allotted ones, so why is it that when guests ask me the names of these People of Flora and I tell them, they laugh at the cuteness but still want to know their real names?
Words have power and that power can be used in different ways. Many of us feel that by memorizing the scientific names and dry information about other organisms, we will know them. Know them by knowing about them. But information is not interaction and what we end up doing when we do this is create an image about the other with which we interact, forsaking the actual. By objectifying thus, we give ourselves the power to decide the fate of the “its” of the world, which coincides with our desires.
Want to build there? Kill that forest. Level the land. Who cares, right? Certainly not Eucalyptus Deglupta.
I like to name the grounded people in the yard based on what they remind me of. Something personable, if not deeply meaningful. This creates more of a heart connection with them, but it’s still on my terms. And it’s a type of projection—the real derogatory meaning of “animism.” Though I feel close to them, lovingly toward them, I’m still not greeting my yard friends as they are, for interaction is not interconnection. Real interconnection through heart takes equality. It takes listening to what the People of Flora are saying and maybe even telling us. This is how heart cultures the world over came to name the plant nations around them. Meanings are communicated through names. Often layers of meaning, but sometimes just the facts—like, for instance, the specifics of rain that predict the type of weather system entering an area.
People of Western Mind, brain people, tend to think that words create meaning. They are not wrong; it can work this way. But it works this way—and works this way dully—when we miss the truth that meanings transcend and include words. Moreover, when we listen for the meaning that shapes the word, we understand that the word is an embodiment of the meaning, not merely a descriptive for it. Speaking words that embody and not just represent living, conscious meanings is power—sometimes practical, sometimes more. Speak wisely; speak less.
And when the world is known to be alive with intelligences equally precious as human, it is impossible to extinguish these beings the way we do. It is only when we view life as a set of facts, descriptions, and words that indicate a difference between objects that we can erase them from the lexicon and, therefore, existence.
When we speak hierarchically, unconnectedly, we give ourselves permission to eradicate lower subjects at whim. We see them as extensions and blockages of our desires. But everything is one manifestation of interconnecting alivenesses and so to harm another is to harm oneself.
To kill off “other” life is to eventually kill ourselves.
Eventually is here.
What shall we do?