Naming things

The last two posts have gotten me thinking about our need to name things.

I guess it’s logical that humans need to put a name on something before they can see it as something of value. After all, for the last several hundred thousand years our species has been developing this astonishing facility with language. Our particular way with words seems to be unique among nature’s wonders, at least as far as we know.

And yet there is a contradiction running through the very core of this way of valuing things. After all, what do we truly value, when it comes right down to it? Here are some things that come to mind: Friendship, our children, courage in the face of danger, our attraction to our chosen partner.

None of these things require words. In fact, there is every reason to believe that we evolved these emotional traits long before we evolved our highly developed sense of language. After all, these are traits we share with other species.

And therein is one of the great contradictions of being human: We are creatures obsessed with naming things. In fact we fill our lives with constant chatter. Yet the things we value most in our hearts are beyond words.

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