Tuesday, 19 October 2010

What's In a Name?

I have now returned to my home, full of the thoughts and emotions formed in me this last two weeks. I will remain at work in this blog until I have come to a place of ‘peace’ with those things.
This post follows on a little from an earlier one regarding identity. I can say, with absolute certainty, that my name is David Michael Cloake. I know where I was born and when. To me these are simple facts, ones I clearly take for granted. They require no real reflection, no real attention. I can fill in forms, apply for documents, make statements – and in all of these things be sure that I stand on a steady platform of rock.
Before we left Jerusalem, we listened to the considerable gifts of the accounts of two survivors of the Holocaust. One lady was a baby at the time of Liberation, the other gentleman a young child of four. For the man, he was sure who he was. He had papers, a trail of information which connected him to his parents, grandparents other family members. To this day, these documents remain in his possession in a small shabby case. From the outsider’s perspective, it would look like he just keeps this stuff handy for when he talks to groups like our as he does frequently. I think though, if I were an insider to his world, I would be willing to believe that the fragility of proof that such faded and stained documents offer is too cherished and valuable to be let far from his sight.
Then we heard from the other lady – herself a baby at the Liberation. She was saved from murder because her mother handed her to a passing woman as she queued for a transport. I can’t begin to comprehend the scale of impending terror that would cause a young mother to hand her baby to a strangers, fairly certain that that was the last moment they would ever share. In this ‘transaction’, all chains of identity were severed. This girl was passed like a like human parcel in a party game for years until the moment came when she was told this story in her mid-teens. She learned that she wasn’t the person she thought she was, that her parents weren’t her parents. From her adoptive parents she learned what may have been her ‘real’ name, and from a previous carer, she received a picture of herself with yet another name written on the back. She stopped trying to work out who she was when she turned 70.
The fact of our name is as nothing when we can take its accuracy for granted. It is there, like our nose and ears – and that is often where we end the thought process. Yet, when its veracity is questioned and we cannot trust even our own name, I am left wondering how reality, in any form, feels.

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