pick good names.

I am having a Snow Day (actually, it's an Ice Day) (actually actually, it's a Winter Day but there was some ice up in the northern tiers of where I work, so they had to cancel the whole thing--it's hard to stop the Titanic once it's in motion).

So I thought I'd do some writing. Here. In front of you, Internet.

Here's what I've done today:

1. I made pancakes.
2. I hung out on social media.
3. I took a shower and got dressed.
4. I watched a movie.
5. I did some teacher work.
6. Now I'm here.

Let's talk about the most exciting part of my day--the movie I watched. Because I think you need to see it.

It's called BELLE. It was airing on HBO this afternoon, so I watched it (because it's a period piece, and I am all about period pieces). It's based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Dido was the illegitimate, mixed race daughter of a West Indies slave and Capt. John Lindsay, a Royal Navy officer. When Dido's mother died, Capt. Lindsay took Dido back to England. She was raised by her great-uncle Earl William Murray and his wife Elizabeth. William Murray was also England's Chief Lord Justice to the Supreme Court--he made the rules and was super powerful. Dido grew up with William and Elizabeth's niece, Lady Elizabeth Murray, who was pretty much unacknowledged and unaccepted by her own father because he'd remarried. William and Elizabeth treated both Lady Elizabeth and Dido as if they were their own daughters.

....except when it came time to eat. Because Dido pretty much had to eat by herself. She was too high brow to eat with the servants, but too low brow (skin color) to eat with them. And this was basically Dido's entire life: she never fit in anywhere, really. Too much of a gentlewoman to be a servant, too much like a servant to be a true gentlewoman. Ditto when it came to marriage. No self-respecting English gentleman wanted a mixed race illegitimate wife. Back in 1700s England.

When Capt. Lindsay died, he left Belle a very comfortable inheritance. And that's where things got dicey. Because her cousin, Lady Elizabeth, HAD to find a man. Elizabeth's father never acknowledged her, so she pretty much was to receive nothing when her uncle William Murray died and her dick of dad got it all. Aren't you thankful for Women's Lib, ladies? Frickin' men.

At any rate, Oliver Ashford (Tom Felton) comes in at one point, doing a fairly evil turn as a potential Lady Elizabeth suitor, and Belle has to make a choice between marrying Ashford's brother (who is nicer than Oliver but still only marrying her because she's like an interesting trinket to him...oh, and she's got money and his family is pretty poor) (the British class system was BRUTAL)...or marrying a much nicer, cuter, and more passionate John Davinier (yummy Australian Sam Reid) (that was very female chauvinist of me to add that word "yummy" to Sam's name and I'm only slightly sorry about it).

This soundsJUST like a Jane Austen novel, doesn't it? But it's a true story! Because Davinier was an abolitionist and with the help of Belle, he successfully convinced Belle's great-uncle to make a ruling that set the forces in motion for England to outlaw slavery. Way in advance of the United States. NO CIVIL WAR NECESSARY. (America, listen up! Next time? Just watch how England does it.) (That's a fine irony.)

I cried and was thoroughly touched in several spots by this film. I'd say the overarching theme to it, it's primary message, was Love. Courage and Love. It was heartbreaking to see how very little power women truly had over their lives, and if you were a brown-skinned woman? Lands help you. The world really didn't work in your favor. As the mother of a 21st century mixed race child, I can see first hand how this still happens, quite a bit. Obviously, people have advanced a lot socially and have developed good social filters...but the subtle signs are still around, that this "you kinda don't really belong anywhere, do you?" message continues to be sent.

But I thought it also said a lot about sacrifice, how willing human beings can be to sacrifice themselves for love. And it was a commentary on how far we've come as a planet, and perhaps how much farther we have to go (because, I assure you, there are still Oliver Ashfords out there in the world). 5 stars and two thumbs up from this not-a-real-film-critic chick.

So please see it if you have a chance. (If you have HBO, you should have a lot of chances right now.)

Now. Let's talk about one more thing before I go: names.

What's in a name? Letters. Hopefully at least one or two vowels. True story: I got a student once with NO vowels in her name. Seriously. And her mother's name was even worse--I'm surprised it wasn't just a symbol. She tried to tell me what her name was but I couldn't even...my brain almost exploded. I just nodded at her and thought: M'am, your name is ridiculous. Try again.

But also, power. Names have letters (hopefully lots of vowels) and POWER. They can bestow their owners with a certain kind of bent toward a certain kind of personality, good health, creativity, sense of self. I have a friend who just informed me the other day that Jewish people all have a special Hebrew name. What?! They didn't teach us about THIS in Presbyterian Sunday school either! (Possibly because it was Presbyterian Sunday school.) So Jewish people give their children a special Hebrew name that's meant to empower them, or honor family, or both. And then there's also something you can do called Gematria, which has something to do with using numbers to the letters in the name, that will also further empower the name bearer.  In addition to this, whenever they want to, Jewish people can add names to their names. Like, if you're having a bad financial year? Go find a Hebrew name that will help fix that and add it to your existing one.

This is magical, and y'all should know by now: I like magical.

So, given my current Life flux and imbalance situation, I asked: Hey, uh...could I have a Jewish/Hebrew name? Even though I was raised by descendants of the Calvinists. And she said: Yeah, why not? So she gave me some Internet research homework to do (yay! my favorite thing!).  She told me to look up the story of Haddassah, aka Queen Esther, which means Compassion. That was a good start. But she said to also look at Shifrah and Puah, midwives who defied Pharaoh's orders to kill all newborn Jewish boys. (What IS it with the world and killing Jews? Huh? Seriously, Humanity. STOP it. You look insane.) Instead of just refusing to do it, which would obviously get them killed by Pharaoh, they were very crafty and pretended they wanted to obey orders but couldn't; Jewish women were too hardy and kept giving birth and hiding the babies before they could get there.

In the end, I was most drawn to the story of Puah, aka Miriam, which translates to Splendid. Miriam is known for her power to speak and pacify the cries of children; she's a baby whisperer. When Pharaoh does send guards finally to capture Puah and Shifrah, God turns them into beams that uphold a house. The symbology being these are two incredibly strong women who are fortresses. Rabbi Jonathan Sachs has said they were the first recorded examples of civil disobedience, abolitionists and proponents of social justice of their own time.

 Here's a poem that spoke to my soul (source: Shifrah and Puah, agitators for inner freedom):


Like freedom fighters

who pray with their feet
I protest for inner-peace

though paraplegic in comparison
to prodigious heels 
of powerful men

my prayerful wheels

spin tales of inner-freedom
and entone hymns of mindful treatment 
of children and kin

I commit to calm the din of crying infants 

with the easy clicking of my teeth
I speak for those who do not yet know how to speak

My freedom fighting is not political

that task is for a hardier class 
of jewish girl

for me - the Egyptian fiend 

is personal 

for the Pharoahs I dethrone 

rule the halls of each of our homes

in the inner-alcoves of a private despair

that petrifies the children 
and paralizes the parents
that inprisons our finest hours 
of family commitment and contentment

I prefer to peddle wares 

of wars-well-avoided
where everyone wins
through carefully worded 
apologies and the timely 
airing of grievances 
between friends

for cowering beneath the pyramids 

of needs – my fiends 
are the menacing insecurities of adolescents
and the lethal bickerings of parents
- the noisome whines of needy toddlers
and the all-too-common-household-hollers 
that oppress our most precious commodities
of family

my enemies crouch quietly beneath

the crumbs on the living room carpet
a beast between the sheets 
of a cold-shouldered bedroom
where partners sleep
and deeply out of tune
with the exquisite call 
of their common dreams

I come to loosen the shackled lips

of fathers and mothers
that they may better utter
their astounded praise
at the miracle of a house full 
of filthy shoes, spilled soup
and their children''s most innocent mistakes

My task is to counter the 

armor-clad offensive
against love and friendship 
- to incite a protest against 
the enslavement of a trillion 
inner prophets of tranquility
whose gentle-tongued souls 
are daily buried beneath 
straw burdens of poor communication
and tossed out with the trashed 
afternoons of a mother''s 
epic impatience 

I come to play the Moses of relational redemption

in the face of a sink-full of grimy resentments

And so I call forth all fellow 

freedom fighters for inner-transformation 
midwives with wise hands
toting Torahs, toting infants, toting pens
all prayer-footed-protesters
come & herald in 
emotional freedom from the pharonic foe
and let us birth our children 
into peaceable homes

for when our houses enshrine tranquility

then outer-world will follow inner-lead

and rock-hard hearts 

will soften grips
and all that's enslaved 
will lithely slip
into the soft of freedom found
and take your shoes off
to walk around
for our houses are the 
hallowed ground
from which God speaks

So call me Puah, 

who quiets the cries
of children, slaves 
and the Pharoahs 

Isn't that breathtaking? "So call me Puah, who quiets the cries of children, slaves and the Pharaohs inside." I so deeply love that. Don't we all have a little bit of Pharaoh inside of each of us, and don't we all need to find someone, some way, to quiet it. Contain it and be bigger. So...Puah it is. Except I prefer the more English-y version. Puah makes me think "Winnie the Pooh," who was very cute and cuddly and very silly and wise, but I'm going for a bit more than that.

.......okay, fine. No I'm not. I would love to be known as cute and cuddly and silly yet wise. You can call me Pooh if you'd like. It'll be our secret handshake.

She also sent me to listen to (I forget why now, but it doesn't really matter) to "Tikvah," the Israeli national anthem. Tikvah translates to "Hope." And so I went to YouTube and found Israel's national anthem, and fell in love with it. It's a song that's mournful and full of hope, all at once. Kind of like this gal, me.

Miriam Tikvah. Splendid Hope. Based on a woman who defied the authorities and did what was right, not what was expected. Kind of like Dido, back in 1700s England. And look at what can be wrought when we stand up for ourselves, for what is right not just what is. 

For the record, I've always been sort of sad my parents didn't name me Delilah, because wouldn't that have been perfect? Delilah Samson. (I once asked my dad: "Dad, why didn't you guys name me Delilah? It seems like a missed opportunity." And he said, "Because your mother and I weren't cruel people." Hah, that dad! Always thinking ahead.)

My name means Beloved. My middle name is Lynne, which means "waterfall." Beloved Waterfall. I like that, too. I didn't know until just now what "Lynne" translated to--I was truly worried it was going to be something odd like Wood or Grass or, worse, Cranky. (I can be that, quite a lot actually.)

Seriously, I think the Native Americans did it best: just name your kids the qualities you want them to possess, be it from Nature or in Personality. Splendid Hope, Beloved Waterfall, Dances With Wolves, Busy Little Bee (that would be my Miss M), Walks on the Wild Side, whatever. Just make sure they have vowels in their names. And STOP putting punctuation in people's names, it's weird. Don't name them stuff like Q'rDshVZ-Mklv. I'm not kidding. There's somebody walking around out there, right now, with a name just like that and they're never ever going to get a job. They'll be lucky if they get a high school diploma. Stop it, human beings. Pick good names.

Baruch H'ashem (that's all the conversational Hebrew I know).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.