Today I am going to tell you about one thing that I don’t really agree with, and another thing that I do. Both might seem kind of silly to you, but they’re important to me, so feel free to read on… since I have a question for you at the end.
One thing I disagree with.
Today in church, one of the elders gave the message, and it was about Philippians 4:8. That verse reads as such:
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT)
So, there is a list of adjectives there, describing what we should spend our time thinking about. Here is that list:
Now, I agree with all of that. I’m not saying these aren’t worth thinking about. What I disagree with is our elder’s statement that these words are interchangeable. There is one word in that list that I cannot fathom using interchangeably with the others—“lovely.”
See, to me… lovely is an outward adjective. It describes what is on the outside.
All of those other words describe things that are both in and outside. For instance, you can present someone with your true face (what you really look like, outwardly), and you can present them with your true self (who you are inwardly).
Now, I suppose you could have a lovely personality… but does that make it your true personality, or just the lovely one you want to present to other people? I don’t know. I don’t think the loveliness of something abstract makes it true. I don’t even think that the loveliness of something concrete makes it true, and I’m sure you will agree if I explain myself.
For instance, what comes to mind when we say the word “lovely?” Well, I think of the phrase, “you look lovely.” And apparently MS Word agrees, for when I right-click for synonyms, it comes up with things like “beautiful” or “pretty.”
But… with the way people are today, how do you know that the lovely face they present you with is their real face?
My sister is really into shows like “Ten Years Younger,” and “What Not to Wear” and all of that… and I can deal with changing a person’s clothes, but the facial makeover and the hairstyling kind of irritates me because it says to me that you have to “create” a face for yourself in order to be “lovely” and presentable to the world.
Creating a lovely face is not truth, in my opinion, because when you alter your appearance and cover things up or highlight this or that thing, that’s essentially like telling a tall tale (or outright lying).
It’s not truth, even if it is lovely in the end.
It’s why the story of Dorian Gray irritated me, because several characters had this idea that beauty and truth were the same thing, and I disagree. Now, they can be the same thing at times, but I don’t think that they’re inherently the same. For instance… I’m sure that heaven is probably lovely, and it’s really true that it is what it is… so in that instance, beauty is truth. But, overall… beautiful landscapes and houses and faces are things that, although lovely, ring false for me.
It drives me crazy to read prose writing by poets who think that beauty and truth are synonymous… so to hear one of my church elders say it was very frustrating, and I figured I should get my own thoughts down someplace.
One thing I agree with.
Back in the ancient world (so I am told), people didn’t like to write their names down, or to have their names widely known. This was for a few reasons, and I probably don’t know all of them, but here are a few:
If you wrote you name down, someone could find that writing and they could use it to curse you (because you were connected to that written-down name). They could also use it to control you, because you were connected to your name—your name was you—and if an enemy got hold of your name, they could own your name and therefore own you.
Now, I agree with this kind of thinking in a few different ways… but I have to admit, some of my professors might break down and cry if they saw me write that!
After all, I learned through my study of deconstruction and semiotics that “a word is not a thing,” and therefore the people who are really supposed to know about words and language and that kind of thing, well, those people deny the magical element of language and deny that your name has any power over you.
To an extent, I agree with that… I can see what they mean. I mean, I’m a person, but at the same time, I’m not because what is a “person?” Well, it’s a word. I’m not a word… I’m actually the meaning behind the word “person,” but even that is wrong because the meaning of “person” varies from… person to person.
Basically this is a place where meaning is everything and the words describing things are worthless.
I don’t like that idea a whole lot, even if I do understand it, and it’s the same with the ancient idea of names having power over the things they name. I mean, we use that idea a lot today, without even thinking about it.
For instance, even if you don’t write very much at all (or type), I am almost 100% sure you’ve probably signed some official document at some point in your life. For instance, if you’ve ever deposited a check, you probably wrote your name on the back of it, and ta-da! Your name has the power to transfer money.
Or… when you sign your driver’s license or passport—your name has the power to transport you. Your name has the power to bind you to things when you sign contracts, and the power to make sure you can’t blame anyone for what happens to you when you sign waivers and liability forms.
Your name has the power to get you into a hecka lot of trouble if you put it out online and the wrong people get hold of it.
I agree with the ancient mindset that if you have the name, you have the person as well. Part of why I don’t use my real name online, and why I don’t use my online name with people who know me “in real life.”
Except… there are those special people who get to know both of my names, but that’s because they’re family or (were) friends that I trust with my names.
Now, this is a problem for me just now because of a story I’m working on.
I want to use someone’s first name and likeness in said story, but I don’t have this person’s permission. I’m not supposed to do that kind of thing because people can… sue me if they don’t like what I do with their likeness.
However, if I change this character’s name, the story won’t feel the same to me—I’ve written before that I get really attached to names, and it’s still true—and the character will be completely different. So, my question is this: do you think that it’s okay to use someone’s likeness in a story if you’re 99.9% sure that they will never read it, or is that still wrong to do?
I’m not seeking to harm this individual in the way that enemies might have done back in the day where names were magical things that could control a person—I just want to borrow some things from someone in order to create a fictional character.
What say ye?
“I have heard of your beauty,
and would sacrifice my days.
These midnight wanderings,
and vain laments
pour upon me
a sympathetic glance”