My name is Jeffrey Mark Campbell.
There was a time in my teens that I kind of loved the idea that my first name means “Divinely Peaceful.” I was a member of maybe the original retro generation, that time in the 80’s when the 60’s seemed like they were going to come back from the dead. So I spent some years in tie dye, long haired, listening to the last album recorded by The Grateful Dead.
As I got older, I thought about how my middle name is derived of Mars, the God of War. I never tried to embrace this meaning by itself. But I saw that my hippie self (like most hippies) lived in this fairy tale that denied shadow and anger.
To this day, I think I’m a pretty paradoxical guy; possessed of an unflappable optimism and a dark cynicism, holy enough to fast and profane enough to watch South Park, idealist enough to hope the Green Party is right, realist enough to stop throwing my vote away; I fancy myself both a romantic and an intellectual and… this is just going to get irritating, I suspect, if I keep going. You see am also rather full of myself and also blindingly insecure.
It’s not the case that I discovered what my name means, and then I sought to live this out. It is probably partial coincidence, and partially that I am seeing who I am through the lenses of what my first and middle name mean.
They are funny things, names.
Summer camps and street gangs and college fraternities and military groups and “primitive” tribes all assign people names specific to the group. The bible is full of stories about people who change their names to reflect their new outlook, stories about the importance of names in possession and exorcism, stories about the importance of the name of the one true God.
In just a few sounds, names are supposes to capture who we are right now, and who we want to be; they are meant to encapsulate the aspects of ourselves under our own control, and also the legacies we have inherited quite independent of our desires.
Consider the fact that our parents choose our first and middle names. That sometimes these are ruled by family tradition. And that regardless of what anybody wants, we are also given a surname, that last name. A reminder, perhaps that there we are the recpients of good and bad things that accumulate from all those who came before us.
I am bothered, some, at the idea that a women marries a man and her family name is most often just erased and replaced. It is as if whatever legacies, whatever curses and blessings she inherited from her forebears are wiped out entirely and replaced with the husbands.
I suppose, the whole idea, that we bare the name of our male ancestors is the flip side of this. There are countless women across countless generations whose actions impact who I am.
On a practical level, I don’t know how to fix this. And for the second blog post in a row, I have managed to babble on about things only tangentially related to what I wanted to say.
I am all written out for the night. But I think this will all pull together. Bare with me.