The Long Road

When I was a kid, my family did a lot of road trips up and down the east coast of the United States, visiting family. One of the things that I noticed through these peripatetic meanderings was that a lot of towns had the same names: Dover. Rockville. Gloucester.

There was a part of me that always wanted to believe that those towns with the same name were somehow connected, that if I knew the right spot, the place where everything lined up, it would be easy to step – or drive – from one Dover to the next, from one Rockville to another.

I was thinking about this again last night, when I went to dinner at a restaurant just off Route 28, and how my father lives just off Route 28 a few hundred miles away, an entirely different road, but they share a name. So there has to be a way, right?

Names are magic.

We see this in the Western grimoire tradition, where knowing the true name of an entity makes for the powers of summoning and dismissal and control – and we see this back in Egypt, where Aset stole Ra’s name in order to gain the power of creation.

We name things. We summon them up from out of nothingness, out of the Nun, we bring them into being. We imagine things, form images, develop concepts, and then out come the blueprints, the design sketches, the plans, and these things happen… because we started to give them names. We make laws, form families, join clubs, all of these social matters, and all of them are the power of naming.

Names are magic, and with this magic we make the world.

(And if anyone can figure out how to tesser-hop from one Dover to the next one or state route 28 here to state route 28 there without having to deal with the New Jersey Turnpike, I’m all ears.)

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2 thoughts on “The Long Road

  1. odeliaivy says:

    I have thought something similar myself, and it gets me in trouble when giving directions for sure. Ha! I tend to think if places exist on the same road they are just a hop, skip and jump from one another. I have been corrected many times sternly.

    Names and naming things having power reminds me of when Hamlet goes off on Ophelia in this bit from 3:1: “I have heard of your paintings too, well enough. God has given you one face and you make yourselves another. You jig and amble, and you lisp, you nickname God’s creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to, I’ll no more on ’t. It hath made me mad.” Though he does not seem to want her hurt, thus he avoids naming her but pointedly describes supposed actions, he drives her to the madness of only being able to name things to gain any semblance of functioning. To me it is as if her madness comes because the way she has made sense of the world has been sundered and portrayed as a calumny that it is not (a speech better suited for his momma and probably to her vicariously) by a man imprisoned himself by names in so many ways.

    Shoot, that whole play is a work about naming, un-naming and assuming names and using the power of those.

    I sit with something unnamed and fight the uneasiness of it daily. Perhaps that is why I am reminded of Shakespeare and his penchant for screwing with names. Trading one word’s power to another like robbing peter to pay paul, in some weird way it gives me comfort.

  2. Drekfletch says:

    We’d do that all the time heading down to Florida from NH. We’d see a Rochester or a Laconia and either say “We’re only in Rochester?” or “Did you forget anything at the house?” (Says someone who’s town is unique in the country. At least, according to Google.)

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