So, this parrot came to live with me a week ago and I still haven’t decided what to call her. The Surgeon says I should name her after him, but that is not going to happen (and if you were wondering, he was not being facetious).
I seldom read the Bible now, but I studied it on a daily basis as part of my formal education in childhood. One of the stories that truly touched me, then and now, is of Adam naming all of the animals in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 2:19-20)
And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: and whatever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
The scene fascinated me. I remember ruminating about it at my schooldesk (the type of desk that lifted up on top, remember?) and thinking about my family pets. How old was I…? 8, perhaps…? In my mind’s eye, I pictured all the beautiful animals patiently lining up to meet Adam. A magnificent parade. He would stroke them and speak to them, and examine them closely but gently, like the kindest and most sensitive of physicians. If they were small enough, I imagined, he would hold them in his lap whilst he did this.
He could only choose names for each creature after he understood its unique nature. The name had to be appropriate; perfect. Naming was both an act of love and a responsibility (a responsibility not just to the animals, but to the Lord God, who had
basically assigned Adam to this task. God was a still a relatively chill, friendly dude at this point in the story, but Adam couldn’t have passed on this job even if he wanted to. Even nice, approachable Eden God does not like to hear, “No thank you!” Even in Eden, one did not complain to the management).
I digress. This story was the one particular thing that impressed upon me the uniqueness and the wonder of Eden. I pictured how the animals must have trusted Adam, and had no fear of him, from the largest to the smallest. A world without fear, without malevolence, only comradeship. ‘Innocence’ has always been a slippery, difficult concept for me to grasp, but that–Adam naming the animals in Eden–that must have been a state of innocence.
God knows what humanity has to offer the creatures of the earth today. (I am honestly astonished that the ones with the capacity for more complex emotions do not try to kill us on a regular basis, just on basic principle. Pit Bull dogs excluded; they are demented.)
To name is also an act of power; it confers identity and acknowledges or legitimizes whatever is being named. This is why hateful names or slurs are such effective, universal tools of oppression. It is why I sometimes take away the names of people who want to be controlled, like No. 29. In this way, I define their identity.
I want to give this parrot the perfect name for her. Usually I give my animals funny, affectionate names–my Betta fish is Rooster; I had a dog called Buddy. I like those names, but I want to give this bird a name that conveys dignity and respect. A human name, probably. She already has a name which isn’t half bad, but her life has not been a happy one until recently (multiple owners, craigslist adoption–’nuff said), and I want her to have a new name to match her new life.
I am thinking about Lucy or Lacie. Or Roxanne. Petra is good, too. Any ideas? Send them in, please.
P.S.: ….but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. With proper care, this parrot will live for thirty years. While talking with my mother, I almost quipped that I should just name the parrot ‘Husband.’ I instantly realized that saying that to her would be unwise, so I didn’t. The thought came to me as a joke, but when I thought about it later, it made me kinda sad.