Sunday, October 23, 2011
A Year With Thomas Merton - October 22
The Birds Don't Know They Have Names
The warblers are coming through now. Very hard to identify them all, even with field glasses and a bird book. (Have seen at least one that is definitely not in the bird book.) Watching one which I took to be a Tennessee warbler. A beautiful, neat, prim little thing--seeing this beautiful thing which people do not usually see, looking into this world of birds, which is not concerned with us or with our problems, I felt very close to God or felt religious anyway. Watching those birds was as food for meditation, or as mystical reading. Perhaps better.
Also the beautiful, unidentified red flower or fruit I found on a bud yesterday. These things say so much more than words.
Mark Van Doren, when he was here, said, "The birds don't know they have names."
Watching them I thought: who cares what they are called? But do I have the courage not to care? Why not be like Adam, in a new world of my own, and call them by my own names?
That would still mean that I thought the names were important.
No name and no word to identify the beauty and reality of those birds today is the gift of God to me in letting me see them.
(And that name--God--is not a name! It is like a letter X or Y. Yahweh is a better name--it finally means Nameless One.)
October 5, 1957, III.123-24