Monthly Archives: January 2011

Misers of Miracle

“We are to come to him even though the world calls us in a hundred different directions. We are to be fools for his sake. We are to take risks for him and be merry for him. We are to work for peace and pray for miracles. We are to go places and do things and speak words that, without him, we wouldn’t even dare dream of. We know so much more than we ever let on about what he would have each of us do in our own lives – what door to open, what hand to take. We have within us, each one, so much more of his power than we ever spend – such misers of miracle we are, such pinchpenny guardians of grace.” -Frederick Buechner

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Of Names, Witchhunts, & Dances

On New Year’s Eve, Midnight bides his time in coming. I attempted a variety of methods to amuse myself, Facebook notwithstanding. I even held a book in my hand, with every intention of beginning it, but somehow I ended up scanning Netflix. So I did the logical thing. I watched Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.”

I must confess (a regular habit here, it seems). I’ve never read or seen “The Crucible.” I just knew it took place during the Salem Witch Trials. I did a lot of reading on the trials when I was younger (even watched a documentary on it). I was always particularly struck by George Burroughs, who recited the Lord’s Prayer perfectly before his execution, something it was said no witch could do. I thought it appropriate, then, when I watched “The Crucible,” that during the final three executions portrayed, the two women and John Proctor recite the Lord’s Prayer as they are hanged one by one. Proctor is last, and ends with “forever and ever . . .” The “Amen” hangs in the air, as if it is the audiences choice if it “may be so.”

The movie is striking, one of the best I’ve seen in a while, and is also the inspiration of the day. Towards the end of the film, John Proctor is told his life will be spared if he signs a confession that declares he is a witch. He resolves to sign it, but then snatches the paper away from his judges:

Danforth: Do you mean to deny this confession when you are free?
Proctor: I mean to deny nothing!
Danforth: Then explain to me, Mr. Proctor, why you will not let —
Proctor: [With the cry of his whole soul] Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!

(You can watch this clip here; it has a lengthy intro, so you can watch it or cut to the chase at 2:39. Sorry; it is literally the only clip of the scene I could find online that wasn’t some cheesy high school rendition or horrendously executed satire. Daniel Day-Lewis knows what he’s doing, per usual)

A name is an important thing, indeed. These days, I would not be surprised to discover that the phrase a “good name” is interpreted as a name that is fitting, or unique (because, you know, being unique is, like, what it’s all about). Case in point: The other day, for apparent lack of other amusements, I read the entire following site with some incredulity. Someone took the time to scan forums and copy names people were thinking or had given their child, and then added their own sarcastic commentary. I read them for an evening’s laughter; the ridiculousness of some of it is astounding:

http://www.notwithoutmyhandbag.com/babynames/

I found that link from Jincy Willett’s website (subtitled “I Would Not Burn the Library of Alexandria for You,” so of course I was reading it). She put the link for the brilliantly titled baby names site under the category “You Might Learn Something.” And so I did. People are nuts. And they’ve, to some degree, forgotten the importance of a name. When Juliet says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet,” she’s wrong. Young, foolish. Dead wrong. Names may not always dictate actions, but they do kill people.

A good name isn’t simply alliterative. It isn’t there just to evoke thoughts of Celtic goddesses, golf clubs, sports cars, and foreign cities. The only men that hang on account of those names are the ones condemned by ridiculous spellings.

Socrates, I am told, said, “Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of – for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”

So I need a better signature. John Proctor’s pwns right now.

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In related news, I currently hold the record for this song in “Just Dance.” (Eat that, Abigail).