I like spring better than summer. But if I were to use one of the months as my name, it would more likely be June than April or May. June is warm but not too hot. Green leaves flourish on the twig, instead of being teeny weeny buds.
By June all New Year Resolutions are put away for good, but the year end is still far, no pressure to come up with a new set yet. And June is time to start loitering on the beach, while the water is still too nippy to get in, don’t have to worry about being stung by jellyfish yet.
While April is like the name of a country girl coming to the big city, aspiring to become something lofty; and May sounds like April has failed to live up to her boast, retreating to be a housewife cooking up a roast.
A name may be just a convenience to identify each every one, but the subtleties in it are richer than spring pollen in the air. I am slow in catching someone’s name and its spelling, but I am oversensitive to the intimation of a sneeze in a name. Some name sounds unassuming, some name sounds more serious than not. A Mia brings up imagery different than a Catherine, a Brad seems more jovial than a Walter, while a Carter might seem have closer relation to southern rednecks than a Norman.
The names of Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise, they conjure up divided ideas. One leads to the Da Vinci Code, landing on the Hudson River like a pro; while the other suggests Scientology, jumping on a couch being a dupe.
I empathize with anyone named Junior or The Third after his father or grandpa. You can say he is proudly carrying on the legacy, but I always suspect he must feel slightly like a dwarf squatting under that laden roof.
There are last names so peculiar, you wonder how the owners had made it through their school years: Wiener, Beaver, Loser, Hogwood, Short, Long, Head, Hole, Bacon, Bunn, Cumming … While some names are just great: Audrey Hepburn, Faye Dunaway, Harrison Ford, Robin Williams, Bruce Lee, Yo Yo Ma …
It’s more difficult picking a Chinese name than an English one. For the Duggars, a devoted Baptist couple who begot 19 kids, naming those babies was a piece of cake – apparently they just flipped through the Bible, steering clear of “Satan”, and each baby name came out decent and devout. Confinement is conducive to productivity.
For Chinese couples, naming a baby is a task much more painstaking. There are over 50,000 Chinese characters, and the combinations you could come up are infinite. You have unconditional liberty, but also immeasurable responsibility.
Something happens to Chinese people when they try to think of a baby name. They tense up, become solemn and stately. Feng Shui elements must be integrated into a name, as well as all the ancestors’ life dreams, unaccomplished missions, and never-died-out hopes.
A Chinese baby’s name reflects the reality of the family. If the parents are uneducated, the baby name will sound cultured and elaborate; if the parents are poor, the baby will have a name foretelling plenty; if the parents are grass roots, naturally their baby’s name will be high-flown.
A Chinese name reveals all the lacks and the hopes, there are insatiable needs and wants behind it. More often than not, once a Chinese baby is named, it feels as if a kite has been tied down by a grand piece of marble, a hummingbird overborne by all the manmade purposes and meanings, a spring fast-forwarded to the fruition of mankind.
I used to think, if one day I had a baby, I would choose the most special name. Now I think the world really needs no more babies to perpetuate the suffering, but if the event of naming a baby ever comes up, any name would seem fine to me. An Onion would sound as grand as a Piano, a Carry Out as elegant as a State Dinner, a grain of Sand just as vast as the whole Universe. No need to feel the pressure to measure up, no bother to sweat the small stuff. A name is just something meant for convenience, having nothing to do with a person’s validity or legitimacy, inborn errors or acquired essence, ordinary mind or Buddha nature. There is no sense in letting it become a tag on the prison cell.
One tag is not enough anyway, for all these lockups you live in. You act differently in front of your parents than being with friends. In that online ‘drag queen’ community, you act not the same as you speak to your kids at home. With some people, we feel comfortable to talk gibberish and nonsense; with others, we feel proper only to discuss grave topics, such as environmental issues, humanity cries, conspiracy theories of all kinds … just so to convince ourselves we are righteous and high-minded.
The way you showcase yourself at any given time, is not half a drop of the real you. Every facet you display exhibits only a little piece of you. Even if I could take a bird-eye position to oversee it all, the outsider view I get would still be far apart from your own experiences of your self. No name would be adequate to define anyone in whole.
I think the first step to grow up is to pick a name for yourself, apart from the names you are given by others. Actually we can use a new name on every stage of life. I like the name Dot because it is pint-sized and lightweight, negligible and insignificant, just the right amount of self-importance I need. A name should be like good acting, calling little attention to itself, without putting too much burden on the audience. It seems to me good writing and good living should be the same as well – every time it offers a little something as takeaway, but nothing more than what we are supposed to undertake.
Evidently I’m not well read – I have trouble focusing, and it’s too much work looking up every word in a dictionary. But there are good book names I love so much that it feels as if I’ve read the books: Life Is Elsewhere, Gone With the Wind, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Brave New World, The Naked and the Dead, The Joy of Cooking …
I have no plan reading them any time soon, for the moment I mostly just like the sound of the names. There are more movies I’ve watched, but one scene remains fresh in my mind – the very beginning of Forrest Gump, where a little piece of feather is swirling in the air, so lighthearted and carefree, watching it makes you feel featherlike. It reminds me not to take anything in life more serious than necessary, including any given name or identity, hopes or fears, dreams or realities.
Spring has sprung. We’d best enjoy it while it lasts.