Betty Spackman compares 'souveniring', taking home a kitschy porcelain reproduction of Niagra Falls after a trip to Canada, for instance, to the process of naming. Souvenirs, artless as they may be, help us to "own a place or an experience which is otherwise too big to carry away and too expensive to possess in any other way." (p.78, A Profound Weakness)
The souvenir's value is not in its artfulness, but rather in its ability to spark our memories of a place — just as a name brings to mind our memories and experiences of a person.
I remember that the God of Israel refused to let his people make an image of him, an idol, a souvenir. For while such images could be a memory catalyst, they could also be reductive. Niagra Falls is not a blue painting on porcelain. Holland is not a wooden shoe with a red tulip on the toe. God, likewise, cannot be pressed, minted, captured, pocketed.
And yet God chose the incarnation — the Great "I Am" (no name could capture God) stepped into a fleshy pocket of time and space…became a souvenir we could carry off, to burn a hole through our shelves, to set a tidy existence on fire.
Paris and Holland Souvenirs photo by L.L. Barkat.
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Sandy's Concord and Providence, a poem on naming.