Neruda’s Too Many Names

1 January 2017

Neruda talks of continuity. The fabric of time is unending and cannot be cut with ‘weary scissors’. He says that the days are blurring together. He asks why we should have names which are made-up things. None of us really are from any countries which are made-up things, too. He knows only of his skin and of the earth, both of which are nameless as well. Roots please him more than flowers, stones ring like bells. He is unnamed while in his dream world, why should it be any different when he is awake?

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He says that as soon as we are born, we receive our names, and soon after we start naming and classifying things. Naming things is frivolous, it is like sinking into formalities and complexities. He asks to see things as they truly are. He is against assigning names. He aptly says that “all of us are dust or sand” and despite our efforts to be unique and important, we are specks. The concept of having a name brands us and our intentions. Power or prominence does not enhance our commonality.

It really does not matter who we are since we are all humans in the same world and whether we are somebody or not really makes no difference when we consider our common experience. Attempts to be ‘someone’ really means nothing when we are struggling against time and each other. Even though this poem ends on a hopeful note with the poet wanting the world to have, “the oneness of the ocean,” the entire poem has a much sadder tenor as the narrator disapproves all the brands and identities given to our world since they are meaningless and just creates conflict, disharmony and disagreement among us.

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