“The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.” —Lao Tzu
After making our journey through the womb, the first gift we are given is our name. The letters that are strung together lay the foundation of our self-conception. It is on this foundation that everything about who we are is built. The unique combinations of our personality, temperament, interests, aversions, talents, and gifts are all attributed to our given moniker. Our name, we are told, is who we are. It stands in our place and holds our reputations when we are not there. It is the point of division that establishes our individuality and separation as a human being on this planet. Our name is the seed from which our ego grows.
When the ego reaches full maturation, its purpose is to drive us and aid in the achievement of our innate desires and the actualizing of our inborn proclivities. The ego maintains the integrity of our self-conception by keeping the borders of our identity from dissolving from outside influences. It is the drive and motivation that we have to compete with others healthily, to improve ourselves, and to remain self-integral even when it is difficult. But if the ego is not given proper boundaries and directives, it can become a parasitic force that controls us from the helm of our self-image.
With a tyrannical ego, the gift of our name and all of the concepts of identity attached to it becomes a prison of performance. The concept of who we believe ourselves to be restricts the fluidity of our being. The ego places upon us the burden of expectation and the fear of punishment if we do not live up to our name and self-conception. It drives the superficial division of identity deep enough to sever our connection with other human beings and strengthen the illusion of separation. The tyrannical ego cannibalizes its beloved for what it believes to be the greater good of its survival.
The insurrection of the ego begins the moment we tip the scale of overidentifying with our self-concept. It starts the moment that we believe we are our names—what we do, what we say, how we dress, the gifts and talents we possess, and the fears we come to accept as our own. The border of our identity becomes so unyielding and rigid that we become a caricature of ourselves for the appeasement of others and our desire for inner consistency. We pigeonhole ourselves into our self-concept to maintain uniformity to the outside world and, as a result, we restrict our fluidity, range of emotional expression, and ability to evolve as human beings.
At our innermost core, we are nameless. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. When we are born into this world, we arrive without a concept of self. In the first few moments of being nameless on Earth, we were closest to our Source. As a fractal of the infinite, we can not truly be named or pinned down because it is not an accurate representation of the Universe which we are a piece of. To balance the necessity of identity in this realm and the nonself as spiritual beings, we have to move through the world as if we had no name at all. We have to live namelessly.
Living nameless is not to say that we must relinquish our identity and live as formless and desireless beings on the planet. It does not mean that we do not acknowledge or appreciate the pattern of behaviors that form our personality, temperaments, interests, or talents. Living nameless simply means to not overidentify with our self-concept by restricting our range of expression and being to what we or others expect us to be. It means to not exist for the sake of maintaining the expectation that is attached to our names via our identifying traits. There is nothing that we must do to be us. We simply are—in whatever way we feel like being from moment to moment.
Living nameless asks the question, “How would I live my life if my tombstone was blank?” How would you treat others if they could never know your name? Would you write that book if no one would ever know who the author was? Would you make that famous song if the world over knew the lyrics but not who made it? Living nameless is not about being devoid of ego, but reinstating it in its proper place of service to our desires. Whatever we choose to say and however we choose to act will come from a pure place of expression and being—not out of the obligation of maintaining our self-image.
Our name is a gift. These arbitrary string of letters, along with our other defining traits, pinpoints us in the Universe. It is the point of contact that allows us to connect with others. And, from the voices of those that care and love us, it is the sweetest sound in our respective languages. But even still, it does not come close to encapsulating all that we are, all that we can do, and all that we can become. The name we are given is the descriptor of an ever-evolving being. If we hold to tight to our name, our identity, we forget the nameless within ourselves. For, the Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao. Living namelessly is acknowledging our heritage as infinite beings while still honoring our finite existence.
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