Welcome, traveler! Enter and take your rest...

A chaikhana is a teahouse along the legendary Silk Road pilgrimage and trading route linking China to the Middle East and Europe. It is a place of rest along the journey, a place to shake off the dust of the road, to sip tea, and to gather together to sing songs of the Divine...



Too Many Names

by Pablo Neruda

English version by Anthony Kerrigan

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.

When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formalities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much of signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

-- from Neruda: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda / Translated by Anthony Kerrigan


/ Image by FastWhale /

View All Poems by Pablo Neruda


I love this poem by Neruda. The tone of the poem stands out to me, first of all. It hints at spiritual exhaustion and world-weariness, and that is an important part of the spiritual journey.

I am Pedro, you are Rosa. This is my nation, that is yours. This is mine, that is yours.

He is tired of the endless naming and categorization that people engage in, comparing it in one line to the "signing of papers." It is as if all of these definitions amount to a tyrannical bureaucracy of the spirit.

And he is right.

Being the crazy poet that he is, Neruda has discovered something that we are normally too busy to recognize as we endlessly categorize and define. It is a fundamental truth: None of these things are actually separate.

Sure, I can say that today, when I am writing this, is Friday, and yesterday was Thursday. But where are the days actually divided? We may say that Thursday vanished at the stroke of midnight, and Friday magically appeared. Or we might say at sunset. But those are just moments in the mind. Regardless of who is watching and marking such moments, the days just flow, one into the other, in an unbroken continuity.

Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.


We can pretend for convenience that one day is separate from another, but no mind and no culture can actually sever them. When we forget that, we fall into a deluded sense of reality.

The same for nations. We talk "of Venezuelas, of Chiles and of Paraguays." We talk of this nation and that, this nation against that nation. And we forget that they are just fantasies, just ideas. They may serve a social and organizational purpose, but they aren't actually real.

I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.


Those borders that look so definite on our school maps, are just made up lines agreed to by people playing games of power, people most of us have never met.

These divisions are all entirely within our heads, not true expressions of reality. Neruda makes this clear by reminding us that they are meaningless at nighttime when we sleep, for that is the only time most people cease dividing up reality. If these separations and divisions had any actuality, they would continue to exist whether or not we sustained them through mental effort. But, no, fall asleep and all that effortful separation falls away.

We imagine that the constant act of definition-separation-categorization is the same thing as clear seeing. In reality, it hinders us from seeing.

When we learn to stop reflexively naming everything we see, then we actually see it for the first time. When I go for a walk and see a cottonwood at the edge of a creek, the most common reflex is to say to myself, "That's a tree," or "That's a cottonwood," or perhaps, "That's pretty," -- and then I ignore it, thinking I have seen it.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.


But, if I stop and truly look, and avoid the impulse to immediately label what it is I see as a tree, that is when I recognize the immensity of the encounter. I see a majestic being rising from the creekside, growing from its environment, embodying the land that surrounds it, giving the place presence, while patiently watching me to see if I return its gaze. I no longer see my idea of a tree, I actually see the tree. And I see how everything flows into that tree. And when I look honestly, I see how I too am part of the tree, that we are part of each other.

Those endless "names" we give people and things are a way see without seeing. Increasingly we inhabit a world in our own minds and become strangers to the fluid, undefined living reality all around us.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.


When what really exists is "a generous, vast wholeness" that only waits for us to rejoin its fluid oneness.

Have a beautiful day... and make it even more beautiful by mixing it up!



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/ Photo by SaxX69 /

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