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We have separated ourselves from everything and everyone, even from ourselves

I recently learned that in Bali, Indonesia, people's names include eight components that, for those who understand them, reveal numerous details about the family and the history of the bearer of that name. We, meanwhile, have only a first and last name, and in many cases our identity comes down to a number.

In chapter 10 of her interesting book Tales of a Female Nomad, Rita Golden Gelman recounts her arrival in Bali and the meeting with a man who, after giving his name, explained each of the components: a prefix indicating male or female, then, to what social level he belongs, where he was born, how many siblings does he have, what does his name and surname mean, and what village and province does he come from.

In the specific case of the person Golden Gelman met, the name indicates that he is a high-class man born in a palace and with four older brothers, his own name means Big Shell from the Great Palace, and the other elements are the village and the city where his family lives.

In this way, the name of that person is connected with a social, cultural, historical, and geographical context that, for the listener, allows knowing a lot about the person by only knowing his name. In other words, the name is much more than just an identification label.

Meanwhile, in our case, the names have practically disappeared and have been replaced by numbers, mostly the identity document and the driver's license, but also the passport and the credit card number. And even if someone asks us for our name, the identification is not complete until they verify the numbers mentioned.

This means that we have separated, alienated, from our society, culture, geography, and history. We are disconnected from ourselves and, being just numbers, we stop being people to become just calculations.

And what we do with people, we also do with cities. On September 4, 1781, a group of Spaniards founded El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río Porciúncula.

The name indicated that the place was no longer a mere settlement, but a town (that is, planned and with authorities, that the new town was dedicated to the Virgin Mary in her characterization as "Queen of the Angels" and that the name was in homage to the Church of St. Mary of the Angels, in Assisi (central Italy), located next to the Portiuncula river (in Italian).

With the passage of time, that city was simply called "Los Angeles", without reference to either the Virgin Mary, Assisi (where some of the founders came from) or the Portiuncula River. And now not even the angels are left, and the city is known only as "L.A." Of thirteen words, only two letters remain, revealing nothing of the story of “L.A.” 

When we disconnect from ourselves, because of that, we also disconnect from others, from nature and, ultimately, from the universe. That alienation leads us to forget our own being.

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