Names and Legacies

Children's movies can sometimes present a purer message than fare aimed at adults, if you can call superhero movies, hyper-vulgar comedies, and blood-splattered action-fests "adult."

It strikes me that kids' movies, the good ones at least, have to make their message accessible and understandable while keeping the movie actually entertainingthat things like craftsmanship and universal themes and even good scriptwriting.

Shocking, outdated concepts, I know.

Anyway, I took my son to see Cars 3recently, and I was not expecting to see a treatise about aging and legacies from a movie about anthropomorphic vehicles, but I did. I know Pixar is known for high-quality children's entertainment, but still: what an interesting time to be alive.

But stories tell us things in a way that the mere recitation of facts can never hope to match, and the movie stuck with me.

So with legacies on the mind, I started to think about my own, and what I hope to leave behind for my son, any future children I hopefully have, and their children and grandchildren.

I started thinking about names and a question came to mind, or more appropriately, a theme:

Is it better to be unique–like everyone else claims to be? Or is it better to be meaningful?
I always get a kick out of "trendy" names for this reason. Not due to their ubiquity, but because of their rationale.

Children are traditionally named after someone or something meaningful, right? Like a saint or other religious figure, a national hero, an occupation or a place of origin, or even an influential person in ones life.

But most often, children are named after members of their own family.

There is a link between past and future that is created when a child is named after an ancestor. You lose that when you name them after a Star Wars character or whatever.

I know lots of people hate old family names, but I think you lose something when those names aren't passed down from generation to generation.

Names don't give "special powers," but they can help forge this connection between past and present. If you're at all concerned about your legacy–being remembered at all–then wouldn't you like a grandchild or great-grandchild to have the same name as you and your spouse?

One day, that grandchild or great-grandchild may sit down and decide to research who they were named after (or where their middle name came from, perhaps). They'll start asking questions, doing genealogical research…and maybe they'll discover you.

Someone in the distant future will know that you existed.

Maybe your story inspires them. To plan for this eventuality, maybe you should make sure to live a life with emulating.

In some way, names can keep you honest.

Long-term thinking is a dying art in America. It takes exercise to maintain and adopt. Rugged individualism is great, but it can sometimes destroy worthy past tradition for the simple crime of being old.

Just some thoughts from a weekend spent with my five-year-old watching a movie. Someday, I hope he names one of his children after me. I damn well better be living a life worth remembering 100 years from now.

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