Thursday, June 16, 2011

The origin of particular things

"Naming is the origin of particular things," said Lao Tzu, who obviously knew a thing or two, or people wouldn't quote him so much. There were many hurdles to actually starting a blog (which I have been idly contemplating for about a year). The obvious one, is of course inertia. But one of the most intractable was picking a name. I agonize over names, and like to name everything. My patch clamp rig still needs a name, but I haven't found one that encapsulates pure evil, capricious whimsy and occasional subservience.

Anyway, having finally determined the absolute best name, I would hate for it to be wasted on those who didn't grow up on gory mythology tales. (Seriously, every kid should be given mythology books! Murder, revenge, conspiracy, people with awesome powers and horrible disfigurements...) Thus, you shall be subjected to a short mythological explanation of my choices:

In Greek mythology, Mnemosyne was a Titaness, the goddess of memory, who is credited with discovering reason and language. The most well-known fact about her is that she slept with Zeus (after all, who didn’t?) and begot the nine muses. What is often forgotten is that she also presided over a river (or pool/well/spring) in Hades. The river of Mnemosyne was the opposite of the river of Lethe. Upon arriving in Hades, one would supposedly have to choose to drink either from Lethe or Mnemosyne. Choosing Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, would erase your memory of your past life and allow you to reincarnate. Choosing Mnemosyne, however, would make you omniscient.

My name, Alethea, again plays on the Mnemosyne-Lethe dichotomy. The Greek word Lethe means “oblivion” or “forgetfulness”, while Alethea is derived from the Greek word for “truth” or “un-forgetfulness.” I hope it’s obvious which Kool-Aid I drank! J

N.B. I love parenthetical statements. I know it's bad English. And I don't care.

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