From smelling roses to self-actualization
Shakespeare’s Juliet tells Romeo:
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
She argues what matters is not his name, what he’s called, but what (or who) he is. A rose retains the same fragrance and elegant shape whether we call it “rose” or something else, like “sand.” How does this apply in our own lives?
What I’m called
Our society values names at all levels. We spend ages picking a name when expecting a baby. We classify the endless flora and fauna around us by genus and specific epithet. We name cities and countries and, through that naming, concrete images of associations come to mind when we think of those places. Carl Jung identified and named archetypes that represent universal patterns and pictures that compose our collective unconscious.
What am I
Sometimes we use names to define us, as a kind of shorthand, to say this is who we are. And yet, we are so much more than just a name. If my name changes to Frida, I am still the same person behind the name. If we consider names as the gateway to understanding who we are, we open ourselves to exploration. As Frida, I am artistic, feminist, Mexican, and I love monkeys. What name would you choose if you could change it right now? What does that name represent to you?
Who am I
Let’s expand this discussion from names to what (or who) I am. Who I am is what life’s journey is all about. Names can highlight and obfuscate this discovery. “I am” is usually followed by a list of adjectives and nouns describing qualities and attributes we possess. It is the sum of our values. I am curious, open-minded, and kind.
Eckhart Tolle takes it to the next level. He suggests removing the list altogether and focusing on “I am” only. I tried it out on a long walk along the Georgian Trail. To the rhythm of my footsteps, I simply said, “I am” again and again. In other words, “I am” is enough. “I am” is a complete sentence. When I’m in the state of “I am” I feel fully present. I do not need to ascribe my qualities and attributes.