When I left my room at four in the morning to leave for Alaska, I expected a lot of things: It would be cold, maybe I’d see snow, I’d get to learn about a new culture, work in a school, and maybe see some whales or the aurora borealis. And except for the last two, I did all of these things–but one thing I didn’t expect to learn about was names.
Names mean a lot to me: As a writer, a character’s name (or lack thereof) can be the most defining element to a story. As a leader, learning the names of my fellow students is not only a great way to attract new members, but also to establish a genuine sense of community in our group. And as a gay man in a world where marriage equality seems inevitable only a few short years after it seemed impossible, I’ll someday have to choose my name, his name, or a strained attempt at something in between.
But as I learned in Alaska, the power of names doesn’t end there.
I lack the gravitas to make light of a serious situation. More so I lack the gusto to make a light situation serious. Yet of late, lightness has ruled my days: Against my own wishes, I have slept in later than desired all week, and once I’m awake, old obsessions mesmerize my mind and threaten to steal every ounce of sanity.
Perhaps it’s my summer sloth slowing me down, or perhaps there’s more at stake.
The tears of yesterday set aside, with reflections upon language and leadership already considered, I can speak perhaps of but two final topics–the first I shall address tonight, and the other tomorrow.
It’s another special day today actually. It is the fiftieth anniversary of Rachel Carson’s novel Silent Spring, the book that has been credited with the start of the modern environmental movement. Now, I’m not going to speak about the environmental movement today, but it will suffice for a wonderful starting point–and if before this you hadn’t heard of Rachel Carson, I encourage you to learn more about her.