So, I've been traveling around the united states for a couple of weeks now, and although I could tell you all about it and my thoughts on globalization and the Palestinian problem and love and life, I decided to share with you an excerpt from the book I am reading, A Wild Sheep Chase by Murakami.
' " Why do boats have names, but not airplanes"? I asked the chauffeur. "Why just flight 971 or Flight 326, and not the Bellflower or the Daisy? "
" Probably because there are more planes than boats. Mass production."
" I wonder. Lots of boats are mass-produced, and they may out-number planes."
" Still . . . , " said the chauffeur, then nothing for a few seconds.
"Realistically speaking, nobody's going to put names on each and every city bus. "
" I think it'd be wonderful if each city bus had a name," said my girlfriend.
" But wouldn't that lead to passengers choosing the buses they want to ride? To go from Shinjuku to Sendagaya, say, they'd ride the Antelope but not the Mule."
"How about it?" I asked my girlfriend.
"For sure, I'd think twice about riding the Mule, " she said.
"But hey, think about the poor driver of the Mule," the chauffeur spoke up for drivers everywhere. "The Mule's driver isn't to blame."
"Well put," said I.
"Maybe," she said, "but I'd still ride the Antelope."
"Well there you are," said the chauffeur. "That's just how it'd be. Names on ships are familiar from times before mass production. In principle, it amounts to the same thing as naming horses. So that airplanes treated like horses are actually given names too. There's the Spirit of St.Louis and the Enola Gay. We're looking at a full-fledged conscious identification."
"Which is to say that life is the basic concept here."
"And that purpose, as such, is but a secondary element in naming. "
"Exactly. For purpose alone, numbers are enough. Witness the treatment of the Jews at Auschwitz. "
" Fine so far," I said. "So let's just say that the basis of naming is this act of conscious identification with living things. Why then do train stations and parks and baseball stadiums have names, if they're not living? "
" Why? Because it'd be chaos if stations didn't have names."
"No, we're not talking on the purposive level. I'd like you to explain it to me in principle."
The chauffeur gave this serious thought. He failed to notice that the traffic light had turned green. The camper van behind us honked its horn to the overture of The Magnificent Seven.
"Because they're not interchangeable, I suppose. For instance, there's only one Shinjiku Station and you can't just replace it with Shibuya Station. This non-interchangeability is to say that they're not mass-produced. Are we clear on those two points?"
"If stations were interchangeable, what would that mean? If for instance, all national railway stations were mass-produced fold-up type buildings and Shinjuku Station and Tokyo Station were absolutely interchangeable?"
"Simple enough. If it's in Shinjuku, it'd be Shinjuku Station; if it's in Tokyo it'd be Tokyo Station."
"So what we're talking about here is not the name of a physical object, but the name of a function. A role. Isn't that purpose?"
The chauffeur fell silent. Only this time he didn't stay silent for very long.
"You know what I think," said the chauffeur. "I think maybe we ought to cast a warmer eye on the subject."
"I mean towns and parks and streets and stations and ball fields and movie theatres all have names, right? They are all given names in compensation for their fixity on the earth."
A new theory.
"Well, " said I, "Suppose I utterly obliterated my consciousness and became totally fixed, would I merit a fancy name?"
The chauffeur glanced at my face in the rear view mirror. A suspicious look, as if I were laying some trap. "Fixed?"
"Say I froze in place, or something. Like Sleeping Beauty."
"But you already have a name."
"Right you are," I said. " I nearly forgot." '