What’s in a name?


“Did you have a good world when you died?  Enough to base a movie on?”
~ Jim Morrison

This past weekend, I went to a birthday party in Kennedy Park in Hayward, California. It’s quite a nice little place, with a miniature train that you can ride around the perimiter of the park, a huge play structure area, a large field, multiple tree-covered picnic table groupings (with grills) suitable for big parties, pony rides, a petting zoo, and a carousel. 

Seeing the name “Hayward” and “Kennedy” made me ask myself a funny question: “Will anything be named after you when you are gone?”

When I researched the history of Hayward, I found out that few of the places and buildings are named for some famous person who accomplished something extraordinary, but rather, most are named after some rich land owner or industrialist.  Most of them are unknown to us, and because their only real contribution was their own wealth, their histories are not really inspiring or ennobling.

When I was younger and much more ambitious than I am now, I dreamed of having a building named after me on a college campus – specifically, a library – I wanted them to create The Sinclair Library of Arts and Sciences – no kidding!

Why do many of us have such “delusions of grandeur”?  I think there are many reasons, a mixture of noble and ignoble.  Primarily, I think we want our lives to have counted for something – who doesn’t, unless they have given up hope of a meaningful life?

Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness. ~ Sigmund Freud

I think the Freud quote above really summarizes it well – we need meaningful work and love.  But what is meaningful? I have explored this in a little depth in the articles mentioned below, but here’s a couple quick quotes from those articles:

The meaning of life is well defined through objective, self-evident principles and practices that lead to meaning. Life’s activities are not just meaningful because I decide to assign meaning to them. ~ from Objective and Subjective Meaning

Purpose can be defined as “the application of one’s self, with its talents, to a noble task.” This begs the question, what are the available noble tasks here on earth? And what makes a task noble? I submit that we must pursue an ethic that promotes life and happiness for all living beings. ~ from What is the Purpose of Life?

Making a name for yourself isn’t really meaningful in itself.  What I’ve learned is that, whether or not you are ever famous, if you have devoted yourself to becoming excellent and good (skillful and ethical), you have largely succeeded.  I say “largely” because I think one more feature is needed for a truly successful life – obedience to God beyond the generic ‘good’ that you can do.

But I’ll leave that to a future post.  In the meantime, you can meditate on the title of one of my upcoming books – “Passion, Compassion, and the Voice of God.”