They’re a label, that’s all. Even label is a label. The word label isn’t what a label is. It’s just a word: a sound assigned to something. Words only become language when it can be understood and repeated by others. Isn’t that fascinating? … when you think about it.
Words are convenient. They allow us to express ourselves to others, to ask when we need an answer, and to reply when asked. With them we can direct, inspire, move, educate, and affirm others. Yep. Words are awesome. Without them, we’d have to point all the time. You can see how grunts became words distinguishable from each other.
Do you ever wonder where a word comes from? I mean, who first thought up the name for tree? Someone must have used the word first, then others must have liked it and used it. People tend not to use words if they don’t like them, so those who made the word tree (and whatever the same word is in other languages) must have felt a certain … treeness in trees. Something that made the sound seem like a reasonable symbol for the living wood built from carbon that has a trunk and leaves. Of course, describing it with words if the person you’re speaking to doesn’t know to what the words refer, is pointless. You can’t understand the concept of a tree without understanding, trunk, wood and leaves. So there was a lot of pointing going on in the beginning I expect.
But why did they need language if they could point to objects and mime actions to get themselves understood? They needed language to tell stories. To talk about something that happened before, somewhere where the people listening may not have been. The only way you can do this with any level of specificity is with words. Dance and music—the other early forms of storytelling—are just a little vague.
And when language became more subtle, more complex ideas were able to be expressed. And people found they wanted to share more subtle ideas and the language became more sophisticated so they could do that. Because of words, our philosophy and culture blossomed.
So what word do you use to refer to yourself?
What is your name?
Are you that name?
Or is it just a word?
Does the word—this name that we must have for convenience’s sake—express who you are?
If it sounds right, then it’s a good label for you. If it doesn’t, you can change it. Either way, the word you use to refer to yourself is just a label and not really you.
You are not your name.
Your name is not you.
The real you is much more mysterious. It’s larger than you can imagine, closer than you can see and right here with you all the time.
Who are you really?
What’s your name? Do you like your name? What name would you rather have?