Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Names, Death, and Elephants

Ok, so I was reading Walking by Thoreau, and I found one idea particularly interesting:
Why do we have names?
Thoreau gave an example of how we presume to know an individual when we know the species, as in deer. If we know what one deer looks like, acts like, we know any individual deer.

After reading this, I (by happenstance) came across two very interesting objects on the internet.
One was a psychology experiment, and I saw it very briefly, so I can't recall many of the details.
It asked you to think of an elephant. So I did. Then it asked you to think of another elephant. So I did. Then it asked you if you thought of the same elephant twice.
Uhhh...I thought. Well, I guess I did. I couldn't differentiate between the two elephants.

The other piece of internet I uncovered was a short film called "Forevers not so long" ( It is a movie, 12 minutes long, that recounts the last 4 hours of a man's life. You should watch it.
In the end, he finds a girl, spends a "lifetime" with her. But what I found interesting was that he never got her name, and she never got his. In fact, she declined to learn his name.

Maybe Thoreau was right. Maybe in human society the individual has been promoted so much that we loose the collective whole, and that our individuality is worthless. What is important is our interaction with other examples of our species.
Names get in the way of living. They preoccupy us with needless constructs, and take away from our humanity.
I am not a human, for I am Michael, but the elephant is always an elephant.

1 comment:

Jim Tantillo said...

nice post . . . nice, thoughtful post.

I watched that short film--pretty interesting.

anyway, thanks.