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27. April 2008, 8:53 Uhr, Geschrieben von Miriam Meckel



Southeast of Marfa towards the border of Mexico there is a little ghost town called Shafter. If you leave the highway and follow a dirt road to a tiny plateau you will find an old Mexican cemetery full of ‚wolf graves‘. They are very shallow because the ground is so rocky that people can’t dig deep. So they had to pile up stones to cover the bodies of the dead. Most of the graves have a white cross on top without a name on it. They are quite old and have been partly destroyed by the wind and by the ravages of time.

Right next to this cemetery there is another one. Nicely apportioned in quarters with a fence around it so that nobody can step on the graves. A rock plate tells me who has been buried here. There are flowers on the graves, names, sometimes even pictures. This is the cemetery of the Angloamericans. Even death does not overcome difference.

When things are not given a name they won’t come into existence because they will not become part of our language and communication. When humans are not given a name they won’t stay in existence because they will not remain part of our memories and communication.

14 Reaktionen

  1. 27. April 2008, 10:02 Uhr, von Steffi

    You´re quite right. Is doesn´t make a difference whether you are alive or not, for example: I am working in a hospital. And I never use the word „patient“, because all humans have a name.

  2. 27. April 2008, 10:06 Uhr, von theresa

    Absolutely accurate! Beyond the name, the language itself is not insignificant. From time to time it seems one is too close to perceive this issue.

  3. 27. April 2008, 10:40 Uhr, von Mesm

    “And when the hourglass has run out, the hourglass of temporality, when the noise of secular life has grown silent and its restless or ineffectual activism has come to an end, when everything around you is still, as it is in eternity, then eternity asks you and every individual in these millions and millions about only one thing: whether you have lived in despair or not.â€?

    Søren Kirkegaard, „The Sickness Unto Death“ Danish philosopher (1813 – 1855)

  4. 27. April 2008, 11:37 Uhr, von Charlotte

    “Even death does not overcome difference. When things are not given a name they won’t come into existence because they will not become part of our language and communication. When humans are not given a name they won’t stay in existence because they will not remain part of our memories and communication.â€? (MM, 27.4.2008)

    Dear MM, indeed: “A thing’s shadow or a name’s mere echo / Suffices those who miss the name and thing.â€? (Robert Browning, “The Flower’s Nameâ€?) But is it really that easy with names? I’m afraid not. Like a line of poetry a proper name is untranslatable, like a light that glows on the sea waves at night a name can also die without leaving its signature, like a fake promise a name can be an uncertain thing one can’t count on.

    Indeed, names make a difference. They make us feel unique, beloved, respected, even in the most existential way one can think of when God tells Jacob: “I have summoned you by name; you are mine.â€? But a name can also be a mask, not fitting the one who wears it but never to abandon, a multistory building in Coney Island obstructing the view at the sea, or, in worst case, a personal prison. And the differences names make can be cruel in their consequences. Remember Juliet’s words in Shakespeare’s drama:

    ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What’s Montague? It is not hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
    What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other word would smell as sweet.
    (William Shakespeare, “Romeo and Julietâ€?)

    Don’t misunderstand me: I love names (and as an editor and literary scientist it is even my profession to do) but sometimes it seems to me the old Asian thinkers about 600 years B.C. where not that wrong thinking of the essential things as nameless. “The way is forever nameless.â€? (Lao Tzu) or “The way that can be spoken of is not the constant way; the name that can be named is not the constant name. The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth; the named was the mother of the myriad creatures.â€? (Tao Te Ching) So when one is trying to figure out truth and consequences she should not name different options to soon but give them time to develop names by themselves. Otherwise she’ll only discover what she has already known.

  5. 27. April 2008, 11:41 Uhr, von Kirsten

    „When humans are not given a name they won’t stay in existence because they will not remain part of our memories and communication.“

    Maybe that’s right, but furthermore it’s important how the ppl lived their life, if it’s worth to be remembered or not. So everyone can do everything to never die at all.

  6. 27. April 2008, 13:28 Uhr, von joy08

    This makes one already very thoughtful. I feel it as with difficulty to reconstruct why it to it came and unfortunately also still come.

    I work also in a hospital, however no more at the bed of a patient separate than process managers.

    The development in our health service already is frightening. This makes already clear that it is replaced the designation “patientâ€? by “customerâ€?. Names are redundant, them by the illness are replaced. Numbers, facts, are important money,… the human are located for a long time already not more in the point of averaging.

    Lived life, can come into oblivion, if we ourselves do not create it in other further to live and thus will not forget can.

  7. 27. April 2008, 13:31 Uhr, von clara

    While reading this text another thing comes to my mind: We drove from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon on the I-17 North few weeks ago. Not long after passing the city limits we saw a sign standing at the roadside: „Arizona Veterans Highway“. And driving our way on and on one sign after another (may be spaced every 1-2 miles) came up, each showing another Veteran`s name and the particular war he died in. On the one hand I was surprised but on the other hand I felt confirmed about the public patriotism of the US.

    And another night I watched the tv news. Looking at a picture of a female soldier I heard the news anchorman talk about the celebrations of her 5th day of death. She was the first female US soldier who died in Afghanistan 5 years ago.
    I have never heard similar things in the german tv news… what a hero worship! Soldiers never become namelss in the patriotic US when they died for their country! They will always remain part of memories and communication in the US.

  8. 27. April 2008, 14:04 Uhr, von Dowanda

    Two weeks ago I’ve been with my wife to Vienna and we paid a visit to the „Friedhof der Namenlosen“ (cemetry of the nameless). It was a long walk in the green in the south of vienna along the Danube. After one hour we reached the place and it was hard to see, because it was covered under trees and looked like a scene from „Lord of the rings“. There were about 120 graves, each of them with a simple cross made of iron. The gravediffer of the village installed the cemetry in the early 20th century to bury the bodies which was brought up by the river and most of them probably had commited suicide. So they weren’t allowed to be buried in the official cemetry of the village.
    The gravedigger took care of the bodies at his own expense. And most of the crosses show the words „Nameless“ or „Not known“. But one cross with no name on showed the letters „Unforgetable“. I too wandered, how could someone be unforgetable who was unkown. What made difference was unclear to me. May it was a lie to hide someones identity, maybe the circumenstances when the body was found has been very special. I didn’t know, but it was the grave that remained in my mind more then all the others.

  9. 27. April 2008, 14:06 Uhr, von Dowanda

    My mistakes in that postings are awfull – sorry for that. Just got out off bed …

  10. 27. April 2008, 14:49 Uhr, von Brigitte

    It´s impossible to react on postings. Perhaps a network attack? I dont´t know.

  11. 27. April 2008, 14:59 Uhr, von Kata

    There are two different kinds of names, in my opinion:
    One is given at birth – even before you can do anything in your life to make yourself remarkable or even unforgettable.
    The other kind is given later in life. That name has much more to do with who you are than the first one. It may be a nickname indicating something in your character, or something great or awful you have done, or something special that has happened to you. It is even possible to have more than one of this second kind of name.
    And this second kind of name is the one that will keep a person remembered, I think.
    In a lot of cultures it was – or maybe still is, I’m not an ethnologist – common practice to give a child a name only after it had gone through some kind of initiation rite. So the name would really characterize the person it was given to.
    In my opinion that is a much better way to name people – and obviously even in „civilized“ cultures there is still a need for that kind of name – manifesting in nicknames.

    Another thing about names often mentioned in myths is their magical power. Knowing a person’s – or a thing’s – real name can give you power over them, so they are kept a secret.
    Even this you can still find today, in our secular world: some kinds of gangs give their members new names which are kept secret and may never be told to people outside the gang. Maybe the remains of an ancient superstition?

    Interesting subject, names…

  12. 27. April 2008, 16:50 Uhr, von Cate

    I have some visitors here who are from San Fransisco and the one girl is mexican. I thought, that could be interesting for her, too, and I told her about this posting, but she didn’t really react on that. I don’t know… I wondered if she felt kind of confused. Or she didn’t care… She was just like „yeah… yeah.. hmmm“ …
    And by the way, it’s so amazing to have vistors, cause you do things you probably won’t do without having them… I had a very pleasant weeekend and kept on telling myself: Man, what an amazing city you are living in!!

  13. 27. April 2008, 20:39 Uhr, von Walter

    ‚When things are not given a name they won’t come into existence because they will not become part of our language and communication. When humans are not given a name they won’t stay in existence because they will not remain part of our memories and communication.‘
    What‘ s the difference between things without name and nameless humans?
    Dead persons, even nameless are similar and being of the same species they are familiar to us. There is something common, we descend from the same ancestors, have the same roots, are of the same ‚breed‘. It’s a common trace of humanity. A nameless dead is a sister or a brother to us.
    The name makes a difference, gives an identity and says: I’m not you, I am different, i have a personal story and an individuality that are not yours.
    Our parents gave us a name. The baptism remembers the words, that cited Charlotte above: ‚I have summoned you by name; you are mine.‘ Giving a name means take possession of a thing, even of a person, giving a character that distinguishes this human from all others.
    Claras tale of the ‚Arizona Veterans Highway‘ which tells the stories of fallen soldiers differs widely from the ’nameless soldier‘ in Europe, especially in France, where ‚le Soldat Inconnu‘ reposes representative for all dead soldiers of all nations under the ‚Arc de Triomphe‘ in Paris. Here is the symbol, there the person.
    In the western countries self awareness and self reflection are different from eastern societies.
    Perhaps we have to find a balance between both ways of understanding of humanity?

    D.T. Suzuki a philosopher and Zen- Teacher tried to combine the western and eastern approach to human self understanding.
    It seems we cannot escape here in the western tradition from the duality of subjectivity and objectivity and the meaning of will. But we can remind it.

  14. 28. April 2008, 0:10 Uhr, von Alexandra

    Graves and funeral rituals belong to the reflexion of a culture. They give insights into the life of the deceased people and theirs community. It is interesting as differently funeral rituals can be – to understand them, you have to know some backgrounds.

    For example, with the North American Indian: The Seminolen in Florida closed her dead people in hollow trees. The Achomawi in Californien dug the dead person standing and cut off to him the head. The head was burnt, and with the cinder the surviving relatives painted themselves the face. The Muscogees in Carolina buried her dead people under the floors of her houses.
    Often the kind of the burial is determined of the question of the next world – which are very different too. Is the worldly given name important in the next world?

    Which funeral rituals own does our German culture? How becomes with the death in our culture handled? What does this state?
    The mostly exercised cemetery cult in Germany is an interesting thing – “More light than beingâ€?.
    I would not like to hurt somebody with this statement. However, I can permit myself in this Blog, because a communication mostly without name takes place to write the truth and to live with the consequences.

    The name is an expression of the individuality and identity. However, is he really so significant and for whom? What does he really state about the person? Why does he stand on a gravestone where the human soul stays completely somewhere else and the physical remains dwindle with the time more and more?

    Are the recollections of a person bound to a name? It is true the name is not unimportant for the association, but what is the name without association with a situation, an action, experiences, feelings, tears, laughter, pains..?


© Miriam Meckel 2002 bis 2018