“Every name is real. That is the nature of names.”
~Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl
Names. How did you come by yours? I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t have some story about their name…who chose it…whether they like it or not…what they’d rather be called instead. Names hold power and history and help us mark our spot in the unfolding of our lives and our world. And while I do not remember the feeling of making the letters of my own name for those first tries, I have watched many a child, my own included, do the painstaking movement of each letter that would eventually be the triumph of their name scrawled in black and white for the purpose of saying, “I was here.”
This past weekend I walked through the Museum of Art in Chicago and was once again gobsmacked by the beauty and creativity of the painters. Particularly the Impressionists. I am not sure why these paintings, this style grabs my heart so, but they do. The colors, the brush strokes, the evocative landscapes that draw you in as you feel your pulse slow and rest in an image that speaks of what is both real and hoped for…a beauty that transcends time. I stood and soaked it all in and allowed the gift of the artist to provide a balm of both inspiration and healing.
As I was gazing upon the paintings I began to notice the signatures of the artist often placed in a lower corner of the canvas. I became mesmerized by looking at the names realizing that it really was the name that made the painting real for me. I wondered about the signature…how did the artist choose to be finished? Was the signature an afterthought or was there genuine pride and satisfaction with what they had created? Seeing the name written in a corresponding color became very powerful declaring the artist’s presence.
We sign our name many times every day. Sometimes we do this with great care…when we want to be truly known as we send off a card to someone we love. Other times we scribble an illegible series of marks that would be difficult to decipher as having anything to do with who we are. I wonder sometimes at the many times I swipe a credit card and use my finger to sign my name…How could anyone ever trace this signature back to me?!
What we give our name to is important. I think the artists knew this when they signed their paintings and said to the world, “ This is mine. I made this. I dreamed this. I offer this now to you…in my name.”
As I observe our world right now people are giving their names to acts and decisions that are having grave consequences for the most vulnerable among us. I wonder if, in a few weeks or or months or years, they will be proud that their name is on the canvas they have painted. I wonder if those who gave them their name would stand by them in what they have created. What we sign in our name has lasting legacy.
Names are important. We are wise to think and act carefully as we add our signature in the world. It will likely be remembered for years to come.