Indeed, What IS in a name?

Kunzang had some interesting thoughts on names the other day.  Well, she always posts interesting blog entries, but this one in particular I had already been thinking about.

Like Kunzang, I have a more unusual name, though you’d think my (married) last name wouldn’t cause so many difficulties.  My name is Dwan Tape.  Just eight letters, but they can cause a lot of consternation amongst others, especially over the phone.  There is also a sizable contingency of folks who want to either confirm that I am misspelling my name (“It’s ‘Dawn,’ right?”) or that I’m unsure of my gender (I once had someone argue that my name was actually pronounced Duane, and that I was, therefore, male.).  I was teased alot when I was young about my name.  Believe me, I’ve heard them all – “Da-Doo-wan-wan,” “Dwan, Dwo, Dwee, Dwour” and so on.

Once, when I was about seven or eight, my class stopped by the ruins of an abbey on the way back from a field trip (My Dad was stationed in England at the time.).  I remember walking around the grounds of this abbey’s skeleton – it was dark and misty and fabulously mysterious.   Anyway, I was looking down at the grey ruins of a wall rising up out of the wet grass when one of the parent chaperones asked me – for the zillionth time – what my first name was.  I was a bit exasperated, but once again related my name and it’s four letter spelling.  She then asked my middle name, and when I complied she said – “Your name is TOO hard.  I can’t remember it.  I am going to call you [XD keeping my middle name a secret here – but it’s a more common name….].  That’s so much EASIER.”  [Emphasis hers.]

Suffice it to say, I’ve had a lot of food for thought when it comes to names and how they affect our place in the world.  There are difficulties when it comes to having a more unusual name, but on the other hand – I have never in my life had someone call my name across a crowded room and had more than just me turn my head.

My husband also has an unusual name, though less so, and we gave all three of our kids unusual names.  We got a lot of flack about that – about how having an unusual name would just be horrible for them – until we pointed out that we thought we knew better than most how that works out for a kid.  And as they have all three grown older, they really have grown into their names – I’m very glad we named them as we did.  (Forgive me for not mentioning their names – internet safety and all that….)

However I feel about it, though, my name can cause some awkwardness.  When I correspond with people who are not being perfectly mindful in their email reading, etc., I will often run into folks assuming my name is Dawn.  It is a bit of a struggle for me to decide what to do about this.  I tend to want to just let it work out on its own, but either way there’s going to be a small amount of embarrassment surrounding it.  Still – I like my name and feel that it is exactly who I am.  So I tend to want to correct the situation.

The question is – how much our names is essential to who we are?  Am I grasping, or being egotistical?  I know that the ordained of Buddhism take up new names with their new lives.  I understand that, I think – both the idea of being someone new and renouncing something old.  I understand Dharma names too, I think.

Still – I wonder – what might be a best practice be when it comes to names.  What does your name mean to you?  How important is it to you?  How important SHOULD a name be?


Murder and Creativity

Y’all, this is a “dead serious” post, so if that’s not where your head is at, this is one to skip.

So – we got a call from the FBI yesterday. Seriously. Seems that one of the websites that I created a while back, for no other purpose than the positive sharing of useful information – nothing negative – got perused by someone who’s about to go to trial charged in a really notorious murder from a few years back. I’m not going to be more specific than that, just for the protection of everyone involved, but if you’ve even lightly followed the news for the past few years, you’d know which murder I’m referring to.

Apparently this person is mounting an insanity defense, and the prosecution is trying to prove forethought and planning. And, knowing what pages this person was looking at, I know for a fact that he/she had to be planning. There’s no other reason for this person to be surfing this information.

So, knowing this, I know that something I created – that information I gathered and shared – was used by someone planning a nefarious murder. Something I created had a direct effect on the planning and possibly the actions of this person. In some small way, I feel a bit responsible.

Knowing these two things – that this person was definitely planning, and that my created resource was utilized – provided us with extra incentive to help out the prosecution, beyond just civic duty. However, this particular case had another ethical and moral issue for us to wrangle with. See, this is a death penalty case.

My husband and I are deeply opposed to the death penalty. Both of us have thought long and hard on this one, and have discussed it extensively. If either of us is horribly murdered – or both, I suppose – we don’t want the death penalty for our killer. I won’t trouble you with our reasoning. That’s not the point of this post. The point is, that by helping out where we felt obligated to help out, we are aiding people seeking the death of another person.

I guess that ultimately there was no question about whether or not we were going to help out. We sent along the data they asked for. I imagine (hope) that our response is going to become a court document in this case, and that’s why we specifically included a paragraph concerning our ethical opposition to what the prosecution is aiming for.

Still, this has brought up a lot of heavy ethical issues. Lots to think about here. Real life ethics are seldom black and white, are they? Wish my parents had prepared me better for that. Oh well, I’m sure I wouldn’t be who I am if I hadn’t been raised to be such an idealist.

Chö-kor Düchen

Via the Palyul Yahoo forum, from

TODAY is Chökhor Düchen July 18, 2007

There are four major Special Buddha Days or “Festivals” (düchen) in a year which relate to the life of Buddha Shakyamuni.

During these days, it is said that the effects of positive or negative actions are multiplied 10 million times, so practice is strongly advised.

Chokhor Düchen – Buddha Shakyamuni First Turns the Wheel of Dharma

Chökhor Düchen July 18, 2007 (Tibetan Chö-kor Düchen-14th day of 6th lunar month): the “First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma” (first teaching) is celebrated. For the first seven weeks after his Enlightenment, Buddha did not teach. Encouraged by Indra and Brahma, he then gave his first teachings at Sarnath on the Four Noble Truths.

Well, there you are. If you didn’t know, now you do.

Geography Tidbit

Kalmykia, for the uninitiated, is the only Buddhist republic in Europe.” I am embarrassed to admit I didn’t know that the Republic of Kalmykia existed. It’s a neat little country “…[t]ucked into a corner of Russia, by the Caspian Sea….”

Some facts about the country:

  • The president of Kalmykia is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov – a chess fanatic and president of the World Federation of Chess. Only in Kalmykia is chess part of the curriculum in school.
  • The picture to the right is Geden Sheddup Choikorling Monastery. It’s the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the country ever, and the “first Buddhist place of worship since Joseph Stalin ordered the destruction of all Buddhist temples and monasteries during the Collectivization era and the Great Purge in the 1930s.”
  • The Soviet era was hard on the area. Stalin accused the Kalmyks of being Nazi collaborators and expelled the populous to Siberia for more than ten years. Soviet intensive farming has also been hard on the soil – desertifying (How does one spell that?) previously rich steppe-land.
  • “The republic’s wildlife includes the famous saiga antelope, whose habitat is protected in Cherny Zemli Nature Reserve.” [source] (We had them at the zoo I used to work at, so I thought it very important to mention them, you see.)

There, now y’all know a bit more, too.

Edited to add – the Monastery has a website, apperently –