There are a few ways to name a child, if you’re mindful about it. One is to look through names, the people who held those names, and the meanings of those names, and pick one that fits the child. That’s hard, though. Because my new son does not know what he loves yet. Except breasts. He totally loves breasts (but who doesn’t?).
Or we could have chosen names as templates for the child to grow into. We could have called him William, so that he’d grow up into a guardian of humanity. Or Aaron, so he’d grow into a teacher of wisdom. But who are we to chose what he will be and what he will love?
Besides, a name does not bestow its characteristics. The rose isn’t vibrantly red, deliciously pungent or dangerously thorned because of the word rose. The word conjures those images because of the plant, not the other way around. The awesome people of the past are not awesome because of their names. Their names are awesome because of them. So instead of naming him something that we hope he will grow to emulate, we chose names that carry meanings, either by their namesake or etymology, that we value and love. The name is our birthday gift to our son—a package of syllables that communicate how we feel about him.
Our son’s name is Isaiah Dev Cook.
Isaiah was a human. A prophet. An intelligent flesh and blood creature who looked to the sky and perceived the creator’s will. He preached love and compassion and understanding. His words became the thesis for our i117 widow’s aid project (Isaiah 1:17). His views on fasting tear apart religious conventions and bring them down to a place that focuses on the needs of fellow humans (Isaiah 58). And it is in his writings that some of the most honoured pictures of the Christ, the archetype of perfect love, can be found (Isaiah 53).
My son’s name is Isaiah—the human who could hear the voice of God. The name is not a template for him to live up to, or a religious identifier, but an image of the perfect kind of humanity that Ruth and I love. It is a nascent echo of the most perfect expression of love finally uttered by the man Isaiah was pointing to: “Do as you would be done by” (Matthew 7:12).
Dev (affectionately Deva) is an ancient Sanskrit name that means ‘Divine’ or, in many instances, ‘God.’ Because my son is not just a creature. He is not only an animal. Attached to his frail physical form is a shard of God. A slice of divine, wrapped in a warm blanket of humanity. Dev is a name that reminds us of the meaning behind the ancient greeting of Namaste: “That which is divine in me salutes that which is divine in you.”
My son’s name is Dev—the sparkling divine being. Because when I hold him in my arms I cradle the living universe. Because he has consciousness and divine light and understanding inside of him that can only grow greater and stronger. Because he is a vibrant fraction of God. And if God is infinite, what is the weight of a fraction of God?
My son’s name is Isaiah Dev Cook. We use both names when we speak to him because he is both. He is the spiritual animal and the fleshy divine. He is the marriage between creation and creator. He is just like you. He is just like me.
And his names are reminders for us. When we get frustrated with his antics, because all children eventually frustrate their parents with their antics, we will have to pause when we call him. How can you speak angrily to Isaiah, the human who can hear the voice of the Universe? How can you yell at Dev, a pure slice of God? How can we do anything for our son, and our other children, but care for them and guide them and cherish them?
Thanks for all your happy well-wishes. I hope you get to meet Deva soon.