What’s In a Name?
Dear old and new friends,
Once upon a time, a son texted his mother, “Mom. I met a great guy this afternoon and he said he was really hungry for a home cooked meal…so I invited him to supper. Don’t do anything fancy, just your usual. Oh, his name is Tom Mapother. Love U.”
His mother shook her head. “So typical of Jimmy, without any warning to invite someone over for supper,” she thought to herself as she took some meat out of the refrigerator. A few hours later a neighbor called her, “Margie, what do you think about those television news trucks going up and down the street; has something happened or about to happen in our quiet neighborhood?” Margaret looked through the curtains and saw a couple of TV news vans going slowly up the street. She shrugged her shoulders and returned to the kitchen. Later the sound of the garage door going up, and then down, signaled Jimmy and his new friend Mapother had arrived. She straightened her apron and walked to the garage entrance door. Jimmy came in first, and behind him a slightly shorter man wearing large sunglasses which he removed, as Jimmy said, “Mom, meet Thomas Mapother,” as she screamed, “Oh, my God. Tom Cruise!”
The studios instantly saw a future movie star in the 19-year-old, handsome Thomas C. Mapother when he arrived in Hollywood. Only there was one big problem: his family name of Mapother. So the studio executives dropped it and chose to replace it with his middle name, Cruise. Now, in a similar story, Annie Mae Bullock had a more radical change. She was renamed Tina Turner! “Stories are designed to force us to consider possibilities,” said William Bausch. “Stories hint that our taken-for-granted daily realties may, in fact, be fraught with surprise.” Our opening story-parable of Thomas Mapother held a surprise—and so does your name. Yes, your name!
Hollywood’s name changes imply you can’t be both mortal with a common name and also an immortal star whose name reflects the brilliance of being famous. Our Hebrew ancestors gave new names to those whose destiny had been changed by an encounter with God; Jacob after wrestling all night with God becomes Israel. Nuns and monks, like Hollywood actors and actresses, are given new names that imply new possible identities. Betty Lou Koeington entered a convent and became Sister Mary Joaquin Baptista, and Larry Schillenburg entered a monastery and became Father Thomas. Did their new names transform their personalities into those of potentially saintly stars, or did their original basic jealousies, emotional needs and anxieties, now simply wear a religious habit?
Every name no matter how common is important. Among primitive peoples there is a reluctance to disclose their name less an enemy might learn of it and work evil magic upon them. The Greeks particularly were careful with uncomplimentary names and disguised or reversed them. When it comes to names, you and I had no voice in the ones bestowed on us at birth by our parents, and there may be some who like the Greeks wish today they could disguise their unflattering name.
I want anyone presently reading this reflection to know that you don’t have to change your name or possess any particular genius to be a star, a luminary and a leading light, for you already are one! William Wordsworth captured the divine truth about each of one of us when he wrote,
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
…cometh from afar…trailing clouds of glory we come
from God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!”
Awaken: Remember those clouds of glory that streaked behind you like a shooting star as you entered this world. That splendor of heaven that encircled you as an infant has now receded within you; pause and acknowledge its hidden presence. Artistic Love delights in creating stars, be they in the cosmos or on earth. Whatever your name, with each deed of kindness, every gift donation, each act of empathy and expression of affection, consciously let your inner radiance shine in your eyes and on your face.
Your name will never be famous. You will never be canonized. No shining halo will appear, but you will be that unique star you were destined to be when you came from God.