What is it about our names that we feel the need to carve them in things? Wet concrete. Bathroom stalls. Trees. The Luxor temple . Names etched all over the world prove the reality of our experience and existence. At least we hope they do.
I carved my name on the world one time. After my first two years overseas I wandered my campus, the campus where I learned to speak an incredibly difficult language, and remembered the moments of my presence. I purposely journeyed and recalled first days in class, first friends, and my purpose in undergoing such trying two years.
Towards the end of the journey I used my key to carve my name in a bamboo grove near a favorite meeting spot on campus. A key is an unwieldy tool for carving a name. My name etched in a particularly fat bamboo pole stared at me in all its amateur ugly but it stuck in there solidly white in a background of green. I took no picture of my name but it looked worse than this one.
Carving my name felt permanent. I know now that bamboo is grass. Bamboo grows fast. Super fast. People cut it down to use as scaffolding or to hang laundry on to dry. It floors houses because of its eco-friendliness which rests in its ability to replace itself and fast. Did I say it grew fast? Bamboo can grow a few feet a day which is why people feel not the least sad to hack it down. Hardly the kind of media to use when one tries to make a permanent mark in the world.
But bamboo possesses a strength which makes it suitable for many tasks. Asians love bamboo. They sleep on it, eat it, eat from it, hang clothes on it, paint on it, paint it, carve it, write poems about it, feed it to pandas, and build walls using it. If ever a perfect plant existed for such a numerous people, this might be it. After 12 years in Asia I understand the Asian love for bamboo.
My name long since grew up and out and over that bamboo grove. My permanent mark proved anything but permanent. But the task of marking my name on something stays with me. The fact that I chose bamboo of all things seems significant.
It reminds me of the strength that comes not from being brittle and hard and tough but from growing from a strong network of roots connected to the Source.
I think about the way it grows so fast and hope that I, too, grow in season.
Bamboo sways and whispers and sings. I hope my life also sings a melody of God’s grace as I live among others.
Have you carved your name on something? What significance does it have for you?