Friday, September 08, 2006

What's Your Name?

The news around town is all about Marshall Fields changing its name over to Macy’s. Opponents believe Frango mints from Macy’s just aren’t going to be the same. Marshall Fields is a part of Chicago history as they say. The names of ballparks, stadiums, & events are being named after their corporate sponsors. Chicago’s Comisky Park becoming US Cellular Field is just another local example. Yet, changing a name is more than a superficial, cosmetic alteration.
Yesterday I heard a conversation that gave me further pause to consider our carelessness regarding names:
"Thanks, Billy.”
“It’s William.”
“OK, whatever."

Whatever? When did a person’s name stop mattering? I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that we are so flippant about people’s names. After all, we can change criteria for identifying a planet. Deciding to un-name something as big as a planet is, um, big.
Names were so important in the Bible that God often intentionally renamed people at significant times of change in their lives. God didn’t decide that “Paul” would roll off the tongue easier than “Saul” or perform market research on Abram vs. Abraham. One’s name had to match one’s identity. The change in their lives happened first. Many other cultures today continue the tradition of naming or renaming individuals as a rite of passage. Your name describes who you are. Not exactly something to be taken lightly.
One of my favorite passages in The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien explains it well,
“Real names tell you the story of the thing they belong to in my language... it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.”

In her book “Walking On Water,” Madeline L’Engle talks about naming as a process. Every experience that touches us, art we view, songs we hear, what we read, it all contributes to the process of understanding our true identity. We are named, truly named in our hearts, by the things that resonate with our souls, the things that call us home.
In our arrogance, we humans have the power to change the name of someone or something. But it seems the names themselves might have more power.


Crystal said...

Boy, I hear you on this one. What is in a name? You know my "issues" with names. Thank you for talking about this.

Advisor said...

Wow! That was really good. I can't believe that your giving stuff like that away for free here. That kind of quality belongs in a newspaper of magazine.