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On Mononymous and Natural Life Forms

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May 2010
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I just learned this word.  Mononymous.  It means you go by one name instead of two or three.  Like Colette, or Voltaire, or Nemo.  Of course, all the old heroes were pretty much mononymous.  Odysseus, Hector, Rama, Galahad, Gandalf, Gumby.  But it doesn’t really count if its just your given name.  True mononymity has to be with a nom de plume, and alias.  Not, it should be noted, an alter ego.  It isn’t a name you are hiding behind.  It’s a name that you have taken upon yourself.  You have been re-named.  Often female authors used to do this because they didn’t want anyone to know they were female novelists.  Shocking!

It struck me that the taking of a druid name is similar, though for many those names are compound, not just one word. And one word is essential.  Now, granted, Colette took a name that was a first name.  It just wasn’t the one she was given by her parents.  At almost half a century old (that’s a the twentieth part of a millennium), I’ve grown accustomed to my name.  It almost makes the day begin.  (My day usually does start with lying in bed saying “Who am I again?” because just moments before I was somebody else.)

But, of course, what I realized when I learned the word was that I am mononymous.  I go by Alferian when I’m not going by Owl.  (Gemini’s can be excused for being bi-mononymous).  Granted, I also go by my three druid names together — Alferian Gwydion MacLir.  But that’s too long to say or write, really.  It’s a mouthful.  I hadn’t thought of publishing under a mononym, but now I am.  Much easier to find in the Alphabet.  “Owl” is, I fear, too common to work as a nom de plume, except here.  One in nine pagans are named Something Owl.  But Alferian is distinctive.  I’ve ever only stumbled upon one other Alferian.  Of course, there is the spell-checker problem.  Your typical spell-checker application wants it to be “Algerian.”  (If I moved to Algiers, I could be Alferian the Algerian.)

Perhaps it should have a suave accent in it:  Alférian.  It is pronounced: al – FAIRY – un.  It is neither Latin or Belgian, much less an English name.  And not, Celtic.  It is an Eranor name.  The language is called Eranor.  Since most of our languages are called after the people who speak them, it might be called and Elvish (or Elfish) language,  Elfic, Elfian, etc.  But “elf” being the Anglicization of Alf, it might more appropriately be called Alfic.  Except that in Eranor, that would be bad grammar.  Something “elvish” to the Alfar (that’s the plural of Alfë), would be called Alferion, the genetive plural of Alfë.  But there are lots of Elves (and lots of other denizens of Elsewhere who are lumped together with Elves and called “fairies”).  Different groups and tribes call themselves Sarithin, Saranci, Valorn, Eldar, Sindar, Noldor, and so forth.  Some of these tribes are more different from each other than Englishmen from Bulgarians.  Saying “Elves” is a bit like saying “Indo-Europeans.”

The Eranor language is a scholarly language, a literary language, but the variety of usage is very wide and often extremely subtle to our minds.  So, with that caveat in mind, I can state that the name “Alferian” is the singular of the compositional case of the plural noun Alfë.  That means that it means some thing like “made by the Elves” or “made out of the Elves.”  This noun case is used where we might use an adjective.  So, we could translate it simply as “Elvish” or “Elfin.”  Some thing that came from the Elves and was made by them — a poem for example, or the language Eranor.

Well, that’s the short explanation anyway.

The funny thing about being mononymous is that it is usually considered silly unless you are a famous author or entertainer.  Like Sting.  Unlike Jim Morrison.  His “Mr Mojo Risin” was just like Tom Malvolo Riddle’s “I am Lord Voldemort.”  An anagram.  It mustn’t be an anagram, nor an abbreviation.

So, let’s hope that I get famous sometime soon, to make it seem less pretentious.  And let’s also hope that I don’t get infamous so that “Alferian” takes on the spine-tingling character that has become attached to some mononyms, such as Satan, Voldemort, Sauron, or Frankenstein.

Which brings me to the news of the day.  Today the big news is that someone named Dr. Frankenstein has created an artificial cell and the commentators and reporters are bending over backwards to correct the impression that this constitutes “creating an artificial life form.”  While, at the same time, they are all whipping up ethical and moral umbrage at the idea of “scientists playing God.”


Why do people care about such things?  These are the same people who brought us the Gulf Oil spill, species extinction run rampant, and global climate change.  I try not to be a Luddite.  I’m as impressed by the human ability to design a steam engine or a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as the next guy.  It’s a guy thing.  I grew up in the sixties when being in love with technology was pure and unadulterated by the Dark Side of the Force, or cyberpunk post-apocalypses.

But I got over it.  The artists got over it pretty much in the seventies.  By then we had looming smog, burning lakes, poisoned rivers, and people who were thinking began to say, “Hmmm.  Maybe Science and Industry have sold us a bill of goods.  As neat as these things are in a sci-fi novel or movie, they invariably become monsters when they are manifested in the material plane.  And all the curious Dicks who have been poking their noses under the skirts of Mother Nature for the past three centuries ought to stand up like men (even if they are women) and admit responsibility for the Industrial rEVILution and all its deadly spawn.  Enough is enough.  The game isn’t fun anymore.  Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein 200 years ago and nothing has changed for the better since.  Men passionately clamor to acquire women’s power of conceiving and nurturing life.  They desire to do it without women.  Or maybe a female lab assistant, if she’s cute.

I ride my bike around the neighborhood (I think no real evil has come from bicycles.  Except iron mines and the making of tires.  Oh well.)  Anyway, I’m on my bike and noting that it is the Cottonwood time of the year when the spring air is full of cotton.  We have one particularly old and gigantic specimen in our neighborhood and it sends forth its seeds floating in the air like snow and drifting against the curbs.  It is also the Propeller time of the year.  The maples have launched their seeds in a profusion of propellers helicoptering to earth in a short, but no doubt thrilling (for a seed) journey.  Sometimes they get a second or third chance if a little boy or girl picks them up and tosses them up in the air to watch how they spin as they fall.  Marvelous.  Really, much more pleasant that a helicopter roaring overhead.  The cottonseeds and propellers come just on the heels of the Elm Seed time of the year, when 80 billion elm seeds fly out from their mothers like tiny beige flower petals that will quickly become little elm trees if they aren’t swept up.

The true petals of the cherry and apple have gone, to be replaced by wonderfully early roses this year.  And the rowan flowers look like fuzzy cream clotting amid the eleven-fold leaves.  What’s more, the hawthorn!.  What can I say about the white flowers of the hawthorn?  Tiny five-pointed stars in little fairy bridal bouquets.  Their scent is pungent and one cannot decide if it is erotic or revolting.  It hovers there, in between, like the Fair Folk who live in the tree, for whom it is a doorway between states of being.

This is life.

This is real life.  Natural life.

Why, with this profusion of columbine and phlox, bleeding hearts, and lilacs, would anyone wish to create artificial life?

We only had one job when we were put here on Earth.  To garden.  To preserve life.  To flourish and not destroy.  Somewhere along the road of education, we listened to some very bad teachers who wanted to subdue nature, cut down forests, and build fortifications, great civilizations, stock markets.  Having apparently forgotten that we were living in God’s garden, we decided we needed to cut down the trees to build houses to him.  Though our forebears had found spirits in every well, dell, lake, and tree, in the mountains and the sea itself, we somewhere long ago decided all these spirits needed buildings — temples of stone.  And they got grander and grander and even when it was later decided that Gods, Inc. had to merge into one mega, multinational corporate God the Father, the temples still grew more and more elaborate and marvelous.  Meanwhile, our species was becoming a plague on the Earth, overrunning and destroying all its other life forms.

Time passes.  Industrial Revolution and seemingly limitless cheap energy from coal, oil, and then nuclear power.  Our teachers start thinking — hey, who needs God, Ltd.?  Let’s return to polytheism and worship the god Coke and the goddess Toyota, or even barbarous-sounding gods like General Electric and the mysteriously mononymous Amoco, Microsoft, Shell,  Chanel, and Dior.  There are gods so frightful they cannot be named.  Only their initials can be uttered:  BP, UHC, 3M, AT&T,  GM, and IBM.  There are throngs of gods and goddesses that do nothing but create new clothes, all the better to show off seductively voluptuous human bodies.  Some are so unspeakable they are only known by names like Victoria’s Secret, Wal-Mart, Mitsubishi, and ExxonMobil.  Some goddesses take conglomerate forms, such as the goddess ING, and the mysterious Samsung.

Among we later humans, there are so many gods that we have to hire other lesser deities to keep track of them on the Fortune 500 list.  The greatest group of gods are the gods of Petroleum, chthonic deities wreathed in black smoke and fire.  Only slightly less powerful are their servants the Banks.  These gods have grown so powerful in their cults that their priesthoods rule over those of all the lesser deities.

One could well wonder where Satan and the demons of Hell went.  There aren’t any.  Some of the deities fall from grace, occasionally, but there are none who are regarded as evil.  Every last one does only good.  But when they fall, flaming to earth, those who dare to watch the horrifying spectacle have noticed that these gods, like the legendary wickermen of the ancient Celts, are hollow and full of thousands of tiny, helpless human beings.

Where have the gardeners gone?  Swallowed up by the Juggernauts.  Except a few of us, who sit, smoking our pipes and watching the roses bloom or the grapes plumping on the vine.

Alferian /|\

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