Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Naming of Things

Recently the latest edition of The Oxford Junior Dictionary was published.  These words (words that are to my way of thinking completely essential to a child's enjoyment of childhood and to an adult's relationship with the world) have been omitted:  Acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow.

In their place we have 'attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail.'  A deeply sarcastic Whoopee.  I'm sure the lives of every child in a primary school classroom (for that is the 'target audience' for this dictionary) are deeply enriched by understanding these words in preference to the omitted words. Not.

Language helps us shape our sense of place, it mediates our experience of where we are.  It creates a familiarity that instead of breeding contempt (as the old adage goes) gives us an intimate relationship with the land.  With our land.  How can we deepen into that relationship if we don't even know which words to use, how to name what we see?

According to Wendell Berry "people exploit what they have concluded to be of value, but they defend what they love, and to defend what we love we need a particularising language, for we love what we particularly know."  I certainly love, unendingly and without reserve, the land I know. The place I live, my place.  I have gone on at some length in the past about the value of practices such as 'The Seven Directions of The Warrior' - we need to find our place in our land, whatever and wherever that land may be.  Even if you are surrounded by skyscrapers (and I must admit that I hope for your sake that you are not, or perhaps I mean that I would hope for my sake not to be - if I was) there is still rock, the living bones of the land, underneath the concrete.  There is still sky above you, birds to your left (quite possibly)and maybe even trees behind you.

It is said that the Ancient Ones - the Sacred Ones - live inside trees.  As you may know, not all trees like to be engaged in conversation by humans, but some love it. All knowledge is contained inside the trunks, branches and leaves of trees generally but the really important stuff, the stuff you can only look at while you're in the library - that's in the Oaks.  It is no chance that we call the pages of a book it's leaves.

What are you doing this week?  Have you got time to go and talk to a tree?  I think you should.  I really do.  Go and find a tree in whose presence you feel comfortable.  A tree you can lean your back up against maybe.  Or just one you really like the look of.  There is much this tree can tell you and there is much peacefulness to be found here, listening.

Or maybe you need the tree to listen to you.  Listen they will.  Perhaps with a more compassionate ear than you can find in the busy helter-skelter franticness of many of our daily lives. A tree will listen with the deep listening of one who knows the interconnectedness of all things.  An Oak will listen from the heart of all things, with no judgement.  Try it.

I dare you.