Journalism students learn to answer the five fundamental questions: Who What When Where Why. The best question, which I prefer to answer first, is WHY. “Why?” is the question which sets art apart from journalism. (According to Steve Jobs, this is also true of advertising, but I digress… Please excuse the distraction.)
When I ask “Why?” the universe recognizes the child in me and gives all kinds of unexpected answers. If I ask “Why?” again, the very answer to the previous question becomes a new set of questions. Like God and Infinity, there is no end to “Why?”
“Why?” leads into new stories, and I love the adventure. Why am I moved to describe this story to my soul family, first person POV? To better know myself and help others avoid unnecessary suffering. Why? Those who know their history are less likely to repeat the same mistakes. I prefer to make new mistakes, not the same ones over and over. Why? Freedom is a choice that only comes after the time innocence. It takes innocence to attempt the impossible, courage to admit mistakes, caring to address them, and strength to fix them. Knowing “Why?” aims the heart toward happiness.
Next up, the most popular question is “WHO?” Who am I? Who are my people? For this answer, I embrace a tradition I learned from the native people of America. Recently, a fine young tribal man was hosting a poetry slam. As he introduced his name to the audience, he shared that when traditional people first meet each other, they speak their name in the form of the lineage of their fathers and their mothers. By introducing oneself in the context of their family of birth, the individual is empowered with personal history. Without inheriting this tradition from my own elders, I will honor both tribal wisdom and my own family by embracing this practice now as I introduce myself and the story of my ancestors.
I am named Marian (WiseSweetUtopianNun ElfQueen Raindropsunchic SunMarian SunMuse FuturepeakSun MrsFuture) nee McNamee (Son of Mee) Lundell McCrystal Webster Hayworth Hancock Robbins & Morici Matalone Scarpace Mangano Castiglia.
This name includes five generations of father’s surnames and mother’s maiden names. It includes my birth name and my married name. It also includes seven sobriquets I have given myself through the encounters which describe and define my life. In the custom of our family, my parents left the middle name open when I was born, so I could choose a new spiritual name upon confirmation into our family faith. While not exactly walking in these footsteps, I have embraced the spirit of this family tradition by taking on new names during my journey of life.
Over time, I found that instead of changing my name, I kept adding to it. I could not leave any name out, for each name is a universe of stories. Each name is a key to remembering the people who share that name with me, or the people who knew me by that name. Each name is an artifact of the time when the name emerged, fit my character, collected the mail for my identity, or signed the poems and cashed the checks. My names give me strength, or stamina, or notoriety. I allow myself to rise to fame or hide from shadows with a mask made from a particular name.
Authors say a character must always want something, and the hero must slay their dragons. When it comes to my life, I just can’t make this stuff up, and it is the scariest thing I can imagine to share my naked thoughts about my journey on this road less traveled. To become fully who I am, I must feel more than witness this life, these times, this unique fabric of history. I write it down because I must catch it before it disappears.
This is Who I am, now. A scribe, a journalist, and a detective, I am discovering my inner Sherlock Holmes by researching my family secrets. I am ready to tell stories great and small about my ancestors, especially my mothers and their mothers, breaking the silence and regaining their stories for my own future. They gave their lives to their children, and like the flux capacitor, without them, time travel would be impossible.