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Interview with neuro-anatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, stroke victim, TED speaker, author of “My Stroke of Insight”:

“ROBERT KRULWICH: And, and the other thing that she told us is that lying in that bed without words, she says she felt connected to things, to everything, in a way that she never had before.

JILL BOLTE TAYLOR: Oh yeah I lost all definition of myself in relationship to everything in the external world.

JAD ABUMRAD: You mean like you couldn’t figure out where you ended?

ROBERT KRULWICH: How much of that was about language. A little part? A lot? I mean.

JILL BOLTE TAYLOR: Oh I would say it was huge. Language is an ongoing information processing it’s that constant reminder. I am, this is my name, this is all the data related to me, these are my likes and my dislikes, these are my beliefs, I am an individual, I’m a single, I am a solid, I’m separate from you. This is my name…”

(Transcript of Radiolab from WNYC and NPR Words: Transcript Monday, August 09, 2010; http://www.radiolab.org/2010/aug/09/transcript/ accessed 010512)

Notice these features of that interview transcript:

Naming sets up boundaries and attractors:
Attractor: I am, this is my name, this is all the data related to me…
Boundaries: these are my likes and my dislikes, these are my beliefs, I am an individual, I’m a single, I am a solid, I’m separate from you. …This is my name

The absence of a name means the absence of boundaries:
“lying in that bed without words, she says she felt connected to things, to everything, in a way that she never had before.
JILL BOLTE TAYLOR: Oh yeah I lost all definition of myself in relationship to everything in the external world.
JAD ABUMRAD: You mean like you couldn’t figure out where you ended?”

Notice how deeply and inescapably personal naming is. It relates to me as an “I am”, and is the source of our rational encounter with everything else. This is not only the recent observation of neuroscience – it is the long observation of authors. Take for example this piece from the screenplay of Last Tango in Paris, a philosophical tract for existentialism in its day. Paul [Marlon Brando] and Jeanne [Maria Schneider] speak, early in their “relationship”:

J. I don’t know what to call you

P. I don’t have a name

J. You want to know my name …

P. No! No! I don’t … I don’t want to know your name. You don’t have a name and I don’t have a name either. No names here. Not one name.

J. You’re crazy.

P. Maybe I am. But I don’t want to know anything about you. I don’t want to know where you live or where you come from. I want to know nothing, nothing, nothing. You understand?

J. You scared me.

P. Nothing. You and I are going to meet here without knowing anything that goes on outside. OK

J. But why?

P. Because, because, we don’t need names, here.

We’re going to forget everything we knew. Every…all the people, all that we do, all that we…, wherever we live. We’re going to forget that…everything, everything.

J. I can’t. Can you?

P. I don’t know. Are you scared?

J. No.

By the end of the movie the impersonality of the sex had given way to the impersonality of death, the literal and figurative sequel to being nameless.

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