Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Home Before the End of the World

Thank you, Mayumi Shimose Poe, for leading me to Adelheid Fischer's wonderful essay on the importance of naming, "A Home Before the End of the World."

Some favorite quotes:

"Does it matter that so many of the stories we tell take place in some ecological make-believe, where plants and animals are treated as little more than the living wallpaper of a stage set for human actions or as interchangeable ciphers for conveying life lessons?"

"Words reveal — often betray — what we attend to, what we value, what we need to carry out a full life."

"Names are the alphabetic fragments with which we build a language of knowing. And knowing opens up the possibility of caring, the root of which is the Old English cearu, which means to guard or watch, "to trouble oneself." In the face of the planetary holocaust, troubling ourselves is nothing short of an ethical charge. For writers it means, at the very least, taking the time to get the ecological details right on the page, differentiating a hawk from a nighthawk. It means swearing a pledge of allegiance to the particulars of the world."

"How we use words to portray the world in acts of imagination is a serious matter. Metaphors have the power to structure attitudes that express themselves in actions."

"We will love the earth more competently, more effectively, by being able to name and know something about the life it sustains...Can you ... imagine a satisfying love relationship with someone whose name you do not know? I can't. It is perhaps the quintessentially human characteristic that we cannot know or love what we have not named. Names are passwords to our hearts, and it is there, in the end, that we will find the room for a whole world."