Why I name things

When I was in high school, my friends and I used to have gargantuan conversations late night on the bus, on the way back from trips with the marching band usually. I miss that. Late in the evening always makes me think. Most nights, anymore, I'm not up late enough - I hate to keep other people up by thumping around the living room with the light on. I'm only up tonight because I'm finishing the manicotti for tomorrow. I was at work today, and I felt a terrile pang of creation-hunger, that feeling you get when you wish you were making something. Luckily, I've had time to program at work, sometimes - I'm working on a rather large project that will legitimately save a lot of time and money, so I don't THINK I'm just messing around for fun. So I worked on it today. It's a huge undertaking, with many different parts. Arturo, who's been helping me with it, laughs at me for my part names - Siegreud, Brunhilde, Fafnir, Ydun, so far. Eventually, there will be a few others. The names, of course, add little to the project, and to be perfectly honest, when I've named things in the past, the names have been stripped out by management before release. But I love naming things, and I spend more time probably than I should. There is something to naming a thing that makes it alive - not because you've added anything specific to the thing - it's still, in this case, just a lump of Ruby code - but rather because it awakens something inside of the namer, something of connection and reality and relationship. You cannot have a relationship with "Lifecycle Management Project - Systems Management Server Interface 0.1alpha", even if that's a more 'accurate name.' You can have a relationship (sort of an imaginary friend relationship, but still) with a Fafnir - and it's a very expressive, honest relationship as meaningless as it is, and one that I would argue is important to our well being. We, as human beings, have come to a place in our lives where we spend a great deal of time intimately intertwined with inanimate things - machines, ideas, cubicles, rooms, houses. I'm not a Luddite, and I am continuously excited about what the future of humanity is with these things, as dangerous as they are - but I do think that we lose something when we become too practical. IT is easy, when it is possible to design a thing for efficiency, to lost the sense of divine whimsy that makes us human. I cannot be whimsical with a thing that has no name, and the naming itself, in all it's whimsical idiocy, is a sort of quiet revolution, a transformation of the mundane into the divine, the act of integration into the most godlike of human behaviours - to make a thing that never was before, a thing with a soul, or as close to it as I can manage. Golems are slaves, and so I agree wtih the Frankenstein myths - they are wicked evil things. But a friend? A secret? These things are good, and if humanity has come to a place where we can create machiens that let us feel real things, then I believe humanity is doing fine.


Julie said...

I love how you've created naming things into a concept..so tangible. I love names, talking about names, knowing meanings of names, thinking about names etc.. I like naming things too!