The other day I was sitting at the breakfast table drinking tea and reading the morning paper. In it I came across the headline
TO NAME OR NOT TO NAME
Well, that’s one of life’s big questions, isn’t it? What to name, what constitutes a good name, what does ‘good’ actually mean, which (presumably good) name should you pick…
And so on. These are all hard questions, especially if there’s no RFC to help you. I went down this particular rabbit hole for quite some time before I realized that no, the paper wasn’t talking about giving things names and I’m an idiot.
But naming things is (or at least can be) hard. I’ve known this for a long time. Heck, back in my school days I knew a young lady named ‘Fred.’ Although Fred is a fine name — one the canonical names for people whose names you don’t actually know — clearly her parents struggled with the naming process.
Not that everything needs a name, of course. Your cat, for example. It doesn’t come when its called so it probably doesn’t actually need one. Your car doesn’t come either but I would claim that it usually does. What about the thingy that sits in the dining room (right next to my chair, now that I think of it) and plays music? Does it need a name?
Hmm. What would Deep Thought say?
An old friend of mine comes from a family with a history of letting children name themselves. Does that work in this case? Well, over time (but especially in the last year) the so-far-unnamed-music-playing-thingy has provided the odd insight so…maybe.
A few months back I came home after playing hockey. I was tired. I hurt. I felt AT LEAST a hundred years old. After sitting and recovering for ‘a while’ I turned the thingy on while
cooking reheating dinner. Before long a song came on from an album I first bought in around 1982. As I stood there, exhausted and hurting, Pete sang lyrics I had probably heard a thousand times but that day they resonated in a way they never had before:
Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts
I for one definitely wasn’t pretending.
The other day it relayed another lesson on aging and mortality and the fleeting nature of existence. I had done something exhausting and from the other room came
I swear I’m too young to be this old, this old
What she said.
So maybe “music playing thingy in the dining room” should be replaced by “black box thingy that provides occasional well-timed insights into mortality and the human condition”.
Hmm. Too unwieldy. And besides, only part of it is black. And I hadhoped to eliminate ‘thingy’ because everyone knows that ‘thingy’ has a specific — but different — meaning.
Fast forward to a recent Saturday. Now, ever since last spring Saturday breakfast downtown hasn’t really been possible so these days Saturday is pancake day at home — not only because I like pancakes but also because it’s one way to keep from one day being just like every other.
I was standing in the kitchen with a stupid look on my face as I tried to remember what came next in a trivially simple recipe that I’ve made off-and-on for over FORTY YEARS. “Hey, maybe the thingy will have a well-timed insight.” So I turned it on. The very first words it uttered were
Since that exact moment it’s been the Infernal Machine.