Sunday, June 24, 2007

names, names

Two more synchronocities on the theme of identity.

I watched the end of a movie in my hotel room last evening. The movite is called, "Matilda" the name of the little girl protagonist. At the very end of the movie Matilda sitting up in bed begins to read Moby Dick to her mother as a bed time story. She begins with the famous opening line, "Call me Ishmael."

This morning I attended the Presbyterian church near my hotel. The gospel lesson was the story in Luke known as the Gerasene demoniac. Jesus comes across a homeless, naked man whom we would label mentally ill but was believed at that time to be demon possessed. Jesus asks, "What is your name?" And the man answers, "'Legion,' for there were many demons within him."

Is the hero of Melville's book really named Ishmael, or are we merely to call him that, because like Ishmael in Genesis he's a kind of an orphan cut off from society? We don't know. And we never learn the name of the Gerasene demoniac either. There's too many spirits within him for one name to suffice.

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