How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name! — John Proctor, The Crucible by A. Miller
I've been very bleary eyed this week because like many others in the publishing industry, I've been following the news unfolding about Harlequin's association with Author Solutions. If you haven't heard about this, and would like to know what is going on, I've followed this discussion over on Smart Bitches.
I think I've said enough about the venture in the discussion. Today I'd like to continue the previous post's thoughts and talk about the power of your name.
I remember reading and discussing The Crucible in high school. Out of all the quotes from that play, the only one that stuck with me is the one I quoted above.
I remember sitting in class as a teenager, and a discussion broke out because many of my teen peers just didn't get it. They didn't understand why a man would die to protect the integrity of his name. I'm not sure if I really understood it then. Teens are remarkably short-sighted, and don't seem to realize the value of their public identity. I've seen things on teen's social networking sites that make my head spin and now as an adult the one though that comes to mind is, "What are you doing to yourself?!"
But that's the trick. I'm not lamenting what they've done, because had they done it in private, they could heal in the long run. I'm lamenting what they've done to their personal identity by making stupid mistakes public.
Our identity is powerful. I understand that now. As I get older and hopefully wiser, I recognize the importance of protecting and defending my name.
I had a friend who went in for a job interview, and had the interviewer throw down pictures of a porn dominatrix and accuse my friend of being a porn star because they shared the same name and unfortunately, hair color. She was immediately dismissed, and shell shocked, because no matter how many times she told the idiot interviewer, "This isn't me." The woman wouldn't listen. According to her, there it was in black and white, her name.
Our name is our lasting stamp on the mark we leave on this world. Take very special care that your name is used for good, and your name will become more powerful.
Look at the name, Oprah.
It didn't exist until Oprah's family misspelled the biblical figure, Orpah. Just contemplate the power of that single name for a moment.
Even in Shakespeare, Juliet laments, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet." — Romeo and Juliet (II,ii, 1-2)
While in this line alone, she seems to say the name Montague isn't important, she loves him for him, the two young lovers seem to know they cannot escape their names. In order to find love, he'd have to deny his father and refuse his name, or else she will deny hers.
In the end, our name is more than our name. It is our identity. It needs to be protected. It takes one ugly mistake to damage it, possibly irrevocably. And while our lives our fleeting, or names have the power to be immortal.
Please protect them.