What’s In A Name? – Everything and Nothing at All!


What’s In A Name? Everything and Nothing at All

A few months ago, I wrote a post about the importance of names. In my former post, I told bloggers that as far as Search Engine Optimation and being found on Google is concerned, Naming or Titles is of key importance. Here

Today, I want to take a more Shakespearian position.


What’s in a name?  that which we call a rose 
By any other name would smell as sweet…Shakespeare

In the grander and the less computerized scheme of things [the places where SEO doesn’t count], understanding the naming of things is a bit more complex.

Many years ago, I began to think about how foolish it is to believe that groups of letters can represent anything of substance. Yet, that is the construct of writing. We form letters together, and we expect our readers to make the leap of faith and connect them to some greater meaning.

For a moment, let’s revert to the more Zen-like way of “seeing” things–the understanding beyond the name–the understanding of the Nameless.

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things

Thus, constantly free of desire
One observes its wonders
Constantly filled with desire
One observes its manifestations

These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders


The Tao that can be completely explained or expressed in words is not the constant, eternally unchanging and true Tao.

If the name of this Tao can be defined with words, then it is not the constant, eternally unchanging name of the true Tao.

Names did not exist prior to Creation. The nameless Tao is therefore the source of the universe.

Once it manifests itself as the physical universe, it can be named. Everything is derived from it through natural processes. It is therefore the mother of all things.
The Tao – Chapter 1 Read More Here

When he speaks about poetry, Emerson alludes to the Namelessness of things:

You might as well think to go in pursuit of the rainbow, and embrace it on the next hill, as to embrace the whole of poetry even in thought. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Autumn scene. Fall. Trees and leaves in sun light

The words that we use are inadequate tools that we throw toward a representation of what we are feeling or what we understand within ourselves. Words are mere strings of letters that a human created to serve as code for what we feel when we see the image or feel the emotion first hand. If we seek to truly understand another person’s words, we need to dive deeper than the word itself–down to the marrow or the essence of what has been said.

The Taoist Nameless essence, which should inspire the artist and/or writer, is a much deeper quality than that of a superficial string of letters.

The Nameless [or the Wordless — or the Textless] essence springs from the wells of one’s being.

When we think about this tree or that tulip or that misty night, we don’t think in terms of the letters that spell those things. We think in terms of the images or the feelings that the words bring to mind.

Episode 7 of the HBO series Girls begins to deal with the complexity of naming things.

Mimi Rose has a performance art exhibit, where everyone in attendance wears a vest that says “Ask Me My Name.” Apparently, some of the attendees have a script that is supposed to foster genuine conversation. Jessa shines a beacon on that farce. “What do you mean…script?”

When people leave the Mimi Rose exhibit, everyone except Hannah has removed their show vests, which were intended to prompt honest interaction [with scripts]. Mimi Rose and Hannah ride in a taxi together and en route to the next event, they stop. Hannah ducks into a bathroom and Mimi Rose gives a poem to a random stranger.  Although she knows nothing at all about this person, she pretentiously shares everything. That is exactly what had happened in Mimi Rose’s relationship with Hannah’s old boyfriend Adam. Although Adam didn’t even know Mimi Rose’s full name, Mimi Rose had become pregnant with his child.

Mimi Rose tells Hannah that she will give Adam back to her. Hannah tells Mimi Rose that she is laying out a beaver trap. Hannah tells Mimi Rose that her art is bullshit and she just fools people with it and that she actually knows that.

Mimi  Rose tells Hannah that the idea behind her exhibit and the “Ask My Name” vests is to increase awareness about the fact that people have become so very self-absorbed that they no longer take the time to get to know each other. [Keep in mind that Mimi Rose is sleeping with and became pregnant by Adam and that they actually know very little about each other.]

In the way that is typical of the series Girls,  Hannah’s last stop of the night is at a fast-food place. She is still wearing her “Ask Me My Name” vest from Mimi Roses’s exhibition, and the man behind the counter asks her name [for the order]. When she tells him her name, he doesn’t acknowledge her. She [regardless of her having given the man her name]  is nothing more to him than his next food order.

What Am I Saying About Names and Naming?

I think that the bottom line in all of this is that understanding is a deep, complex thing. It is a feeling, an emotional thing–and it is beyond the black and white of text. Understanding requires more than reading a few words.

As writers, we must do more than write a few lines of text, and as painters, we must do more than the replicating of images.

Art is an essence. It is an ideal. It is an arrow shot into the fog. Sometimes it misses its mark entirely and sometimes, it does not. Regardless of where the arrow lands, however, the artist needs to keep aiming for the truth–the Nameless.

©Jacki Kellum April 30, 2016



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