What’s Your Name?

“Who can give a man this, his own name?” –George MacDonald. (Unspoken Sermons.)

Hi, I’m back today with a much more mystical subject than I’ve been covering, (and by the way, mystical is not the same as mythical, mystical can be real, but very hard to understand unless you are a Mystic.)

What brought this on was recently watching the Anime Best Picture winner “Your Name.” I was both skeptical and hopeful when I heard about it, and so my siblings and I decided to try it out. We’ve only discovered we like anime over the last year or so, and we’ve been slowly trying different kinds. (I seem to like Slice of Life best aside from the shows I’ve gotten into.) I loved Koe no Katachi, a different anime movie, so I thought, what the heck?

And I thought Your Name was one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen, from a visual and story perspective, though not without its flaws.

However this is not a movie review, watch it if you’re into that sort of thing, otherwise don’t bother, if anime turns you off. But the concept of the movie was something I did want to talk about, because part of what  I liked about it was how similar it was to other things I’ve read, and it’s mostly read, since I’ve seen few movies tackle the subject.

The movie centers around a couple different ideas which I’ll list here for clarity before breaking them down.

  1. The idea that Love transcends Time and Space
  2. The idea that there’s power in knowing someone’s Name.
  3. The idea that people are destined to meet, despite whatever impossible obstacles seem to stand in their way.
  4. The idea that time is interwoven, not just a long line of events.

The first two are the most important, and the ones I feel the most informed of, if you could call it that.

I happen to be a fan of Madeleine L’Engle’s first three books in the Wrinkle in Time series, my favorite out of the three is “A swiftly Tilting Planet,” it’s amazingly complex for such a short book, and it focuses on Joy, and Love, like all three of the books do, as well as Time Travel.

What’s interesting about it is that just like in “Your Name” the boy in this book time travels by going within someone else. Only it is several different people and all male. Also he other person’s conscious remains. he just blends into it, giving them help when he can but only subtly. they can’t know it’s him or it would scare them too badly. It is not possessive, but sharing, like a passing traveler.

The boy, Charles Wallace, goes within for the same reason Taki in the movie does, it is to redeem people and save others. There is a disaster int he book that is going to wipe out the world because of an evil man, and he has to redeem the parents of this man and save some of them also. Taki has only to save an entire town, but it proves just as difficult.

Interestingly, both stories share the theme of someone forgetting quickly as soon as they come out of it, what happened. Only, instead of Charles Wallace forgetting, it’s Meg who is only helping him by a sort of telepathic connection they have (more spiritual than mental) and because she is not there, it fades from her mind. Like a dream. Other characters in the book have dreams that are actually from Charles Wallace’s life, while he is within them.

I find the similarities astounding.

Here we have the idea that lives can be shared across time and space, and it is because of love, joy, and the need for salvation (in every sense of the word) that it happens. We have the idea that our spirits are not bound by time, space, or our minds. Because Meg’s mind may not be able to retain it (her brother has a rare mind that is able to, not many people do) but her heart and spirit can. In the movie, the two people’s minds are only able to remember for a short time what happens, but their hearts and souls remember always.

It’s actually a common idea in Japan that people can be connected and share sorrows and joys, especially with lovers. And the idea is actually not unbiblical. I’ve heard stories of people sharing feelings or some other kind of connection in the spirit, or even physical pain.

But and even more important thing (at least for the average person who probably won’t expereince that kind of trascendential existance in this life) is the second thme. The power of names.

I again turned to L’Engle, this time her second book int he series, A Wind in The Door. In this book Meg learns more about her task in the universe (in Church we would call it spiritual gifting or calling, the secular world also calls it a calling, rather mockingly, but also with some seriousness.) It is to be a Namer, and she does not get it. She asks her teacher about it:

Meg: “Well, then, if I’m a Namer, what does that mean? What does a Namer do?”

Proginoskes: “When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That’s basically a Namer’s job. Maybe you’re supposed to make earthlings feel more human.”

He goes on to explain that their enenmies, the Echthroi, are trying to destroy the world by doing just the opposite:

“I think your mythology would call them fallen angels. War and hate are their business, and one of their chief weapons is un-Naming – making people not know who they are. If someone knows who he is, really knows, then he doesn’t need to hate. That’s why we still need Namers, because there are places throughout the universe like your planet Earth. When everyone is really and truly Named, then the Echthroi will be vanquished.”

In “Your Name” the problem is not that the characters forget who they are, but that they forget each other, every time the barrier of time is reinstated between them, they forget. And eventually forget even that there was a person they were trying to remember. Though they have a vague idea that they are always searching for someone or somewhere or something. Because they cannot remember the name they don’t know who each other are. It echoes L’Engle’s idea so closely, it’s bizarre.

Knowing your own name is important, so is knowing other people’s. But why?

George MacDonald had some very profound thoughts about this, in his Unspoken sermon about names he notes that the names we give each other are just shadows of what a real name is, since the real name, that God will give us at the end of time, is one only he and we will know, and only that one person will have.

“The true name is one which expresses the character, the nature, the being, the meaning of the person who bears it. It is the man’s own symbol,–his soul’s picture, in a word,–the sign which belongs to him and to no one else. Who can give a man this, his own name? God alone. For no one but God sees what the man is, or even, seeing what he is, could express in a name-word the sum and harmony of what he sees.” 

(Link to the full sermon here: http://www.online-literature.com/george-macdonald/unspoken-sermons/5/)

Taki and Mitsuha are not names that sum up who they are exactly.

Mitsuha means “third leaf” and is similar to her grandmother’s, mother’s and sister’s names, which are first leaf, second leaf, and fourth leaf, in that order. It symbolizes he place in the story as a carrier on of tradition, but not her personality.

Taki means waterfall or water plunging. He does plunge into water in a sort of vision in the movie, and that is when he is able to save Mitsuha and her village by switching with her one last time. But it doesn’t sum him up.

In the end, that’s not really the point. The names in the movie do just what MacDonald points out our human names for each other are meant to do, identify us to ourselves. Help us distinguish each other, honor each other, and of course, remember who is who.

But as MacDonald and L’Engle both point out, there’s a higher reason for names. Names carry our identity.

My full name (which I don’t use on this blog and won’t actually give here for privacy reasons) mean “joy/rejoicing, Christ’s Birthday, and guardian/one who guards or protects.” If you knew me in real life, it makes sense. Even on this blog, it makes sense.

I’ve been told many times my name was no accident. Not everyone is blessed with a good name. In India many girls are cursed with a name that means “unwanted” there’s a group that takes in some of these girls and allows them to legally change their name into something better. If your name has absolute no positive connotations, I’d suggest you consider going by something else, but most names do have some good meaning.

Why is it important?

It might surprise you.

In the Bible a lot of stress is put on names, I’d say more than almost any other religion. Names are seen as so powerful that priests could not even write the full name of God because it was so holy, they abbreviated it to “Yah.” The bible doesn’t actually say not to write God’s name, that I know of, it’s more of a Hebrew culture thing added later, but that is how seriously they take it.

The second commandment is not to misuse the name of God. Sadly, even Christian often don’t take this one seriously.

But even so, other names have power. Abigail’s husband Naboth, who disrespected King David, name means fool. Sometimes bible names come to mean that thing because of the bearer (I think Ruth is like this, it mean friend), but Abigail tells David he is just as his name suggests, meaning it already meant that and his parents clearly sucked.

Judah means “praise,” and David was of the tribe of Judah, as was his son Solomon, both of whom wrote psalms and considered worship to be very important.

Jesus means “deliverer”, Emmanuel means “God with us.”

The list goes on and on and on, any important Bible figure almost always has a name that connects to their purpose. Noah means “rest or peace”, Jacob means “usurper”, Moses means “drawn out”, and if you know their stories, it all makes sense.

But even more importantly God himself tells us names are important.

Phil 2:9 “Therefore God has also highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.”

In Exodus 3:15, He tells Moses his name is I Am Who I Am (Yahweh) “This is My name forever.”

Google verses about names if you want an even more in depth list, but even this tells us names can be eternal, and higher, and powerful. Names mean authority.

Heck, everyone knows this, think of even a couple hundred years ago when black people had “slave names”, names usually not in proper English, that they would change when they were freed or they would finally get a last name like a legal citizen would have. Changing the name was a sign of being able to be though of as an intelligent human being. Even before they really were, by most people.

Even in fiction, every writer knows, names are important. My character’s names always come to me, and then unless I use them, no other name will stick in my head. After awhile I started looking up the names when this happened and was shocked to discover that (at least when they were real and not made up ones) each name had a meaning that matched the purpose I had for the character, and something about their personality too.

Even when we don’t know a meaning, a name has immense power. There’s a whole cultist idea about this, but let me say, names don’t dictate everything. They help, sure, but you still choose what you do with your name. So don’t worry about it if your name has a personality associated with it that you don’t like. (I prefer not to look into that stuff at all, I stumbled on some by accident. It was scarily accurate in some ways, but wrong in others. No one can fully predict who you will be except God.)

Well, this ran long because of all the quotes, but it was interesting. I hope it inspired you to go look up what your name means, it might surprise you. And until next time–Natasha (Christ’s Birthday.)

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