Humans, by nature, create order about them by naming things. Carol Yoon remarked on this phenomena in children, who named elements of nature and created relationships between objects along the line of family ties. This tendency comes repressed as we become adults – but it still emerges in our more unguarded moments. Ever hear the joke about the guy who is having a love affair with “Bonnie” – only to find out that ‘she’ is really a car?
Of course, the purpose of the sorting was to increase the ability to recycle the individual elements. And indeed, a sign by the exit proudly displayed the percentage of waste which was successfully recycled. It was the act of identifying and naming the waste which breathed life back into the material. So our van full of stuff from emptying a garage became wood, metal, glass, soil. It became a game, a challenge to find a home for the material in the right bin – where it could continue to live. We could keep it from the nameless abyss of “waste.” My friends and I were eager that our own recycled percentage should meet or beat that of the site average. It was a game, a challenge, a source of pride.
The psychological impact of naming materials is subtle, and perhaps mostly a figment of my imagination, but potentially an interesting lense on life. So I honor the life in train which transports me around the country, I greet the cows by name on my morning runs, and I welcome the little people who live in my computer and compose these blogs. This is the great consciousness which kids understand, and which we seek as adults. Maybe it just starts with a name.