Friday, February 1, 2008

Searching for a name

A few weeks ago, I caught the movie "Into the Wild" on a flight to Europe. The film tells the true story of Chris McCandless, who, after graduating from Emory in 1990, gave away his $24,000 life savings, vanished from his family, and spent the next two years working his way up to Alaska, where he lived in in the wild, away from human contact.

I found his story compelling and moving. Who doesn't at times wrestle with the struggle for a true identity?

Though my own story is quite different, I resonated with McCandless's search for an identity. I grew up adopted, knowing only the faintest traces of information about my biological identity. How do we find ourselves? How do we wrestle with the quest for an identity?

McCandless grew up in a web of lies. His parents were not who they claimed to be. His discovery of their deception contributed to his own deep struggle with his identity. After fleeing the confines of his life in Atlanta, he gave himself the name "Alexander Supertramp", and headed off in search of himself.

Can one really find one's self in this way? Do we create our self and our identity, or do we discover it? It seemed like McCandless's newly created identity was no more real or unreal than the identity given to him by his dysfunctional family. We are all given names by the people around us. Some of those names are terms of endearment, these are the names we cherish. Some of those names wound us deeply ("stupid", "fatty", "lazy", etc.). But who can really and truly name us?

Can any self we create for ourselves be real? It seems that the only self that is real is the one known and created by God. Who else can truly name and identify us other than the one who created us?

God is described in the Bible as giving those who overcome a white stone with a name written on it, known only to him who receives it (Revelation 2:17). I wonder what that name will be? It seems like part of life's journey is spent discovering hints of what God has written on that white stone and then living out that identity. At least that's how it seems to me.


Starshine said...

This reminds me so much of the concept of double knowledge--that we cannot fully know ourselves unless we know God, and we cannot fully know God unless we know ourselves. I love the idea that as I grow more in my knowing of God that I will discover more of my true self, which in turn will lead me more deeply into my knowing of God which in turn will....

Autumn's Mom said...

Welcome to blogsphere! I am very interested in seeing this movie. Thank you for sharing the meaning of your blog name. I quite agree.

J at said...

"Can one really find one's self in this way? Do we create our self and our identity, or do we discover it?"

As an atheist, I can't identify with God being the one who defines us. But at the same time, I love this post, and I agree that life's journey is one of self discovery, one of not only trying to figure out who we are, but also of creating ourselves. Our actions and feelings define us, to a degree, so we are always a work in progress.

Your first post is a great one. I am looking forward to seeing more!

Beenzzz said...

Hi Starshines' hubs! Welcome to the bloggy world.

Deb said...

Beautiful and intriguing first blog post.

I am anticipating seeing this movie, but I am forcing myself to read the book first. I am actually going to try to start it this weekend. I have only heard great things about this story in the sense it forces oneself to take some time for reflection. I am looking forward to it!

Cherry said...

Hi B!
I hope you enjoy the bloggy world as much as so many other's have. It really is an interesting space to write and to share and to learn about yourself as well as others.

I'm looking forward to "meeting" you through your writing. This is a great first introduction. Welcome!

mrs. blogoway said...

I read the book when I was younger and was so excited to see the movie. I have a friend who is from Canada and I asked her if she wanted to see the movie with me. She said, "absolutely not. Sean Penn is glorifying stupidity and I won't have anything to do with it." She apparently knew a little bit about the story and felt that the main character's choices were ridiculous (being from Canada herself and knowing quite a bit about wilderness survival). But I was so mad that we had to see American Gangster instead that day.