Why I Am Changing My Name

Partington stitch header

I love making music but I loathe self promotion. I’ve always cringed at the idea of putting my name on a T-shirt, coffee mug, or banner ad. Maybe it’s false humility, poor self esteem, or that I’d like to think that I belong to myself and no one can buy me. Either way, I’ve long been drawn to the idea of releasing music as an entity rather than as part of my identity.

So, Son of Laughter is my preferred name for this occasion; luckily, it is a broad canvas of a name. I can relate to it in the most innocent and depraved ways imaginable. I like it because, at the very least, it gives me the freedom to write about all of these things:

1.) Laughter can be pure. My children laugh at bubbles, the smacking of dogs’ tails, the threat of being tickled and all the strange noises they can make with their throats.

2.) Ever since I was a child, I’ve always laughed a little too much. I first became aware of this when one kindergarten teacher dubbed me “Laughing Horse” as my Indian name for a Thanksgiving feast re-enactment. Once an angry boy in a violin clinic pointed his bow at me and demanded that I explain what I was laughing at, when I hadn’t quite realized that I was even doing it.

3.) I’ve since learned that it is a coping mechanism, one tiny step towards self reliantly handling the world at its most frustrating or ambiguous. Sometimes this leads to me, as a teacher, a father, performer, and a friend, laughing at the worst times. Sometimes I even start laughing before the person I am talking to has finished their thought. That’s always awkward.

4.) My three-year-old son already seems to have the same relationship with laughter, and some of these songs are about him too.

5.) Son of Laughter is a reference to the name Isaac. It is a reminder that Abraham and Sarah laughed a terrible, despairing laugh at God when he told them they would have a son after a lifetime of barren disappointment. To say that I too have doubted the promises of God, like the ones to watch over my cherished, vulnerable family as he does the sparrow or to even make the world new again, would be an understatement.

That same type of laughter ties to this project, though this was never exactly promised to me. I often doubted, with earnest realism, that this recording would ever come to full term. It took just under five years to make a five song EP. At one point a friend of mine suggested, “Some dreams are meant to die.” I bitterly took this as sage advice.

6.) Even worse, son of laughter, as Frederick Buechner used it, can also be interpreted as Isaac’s (Laughter) son, Jacob, one of the most manipulative, deceptive, and self serving characters in all of literature. Any honest soul will find that he is a depressingly familiar personality, to say the least. In many ways a life of such deception is one of despair, having given up on everything and everyone except our own shameless cunning to survive.

7.) In all of those sad cases, God is relentlessly gracious. In the case of Abraham and Sarah, a son was born out of hopeless cynicism. With Laughter’s son, Jacob, God graced him in the middle of his wretchedness, disabling him at his most contentious and giving him a new name.

8.)  I see that same confident vision in a far more innocent son of laughter, who again boldly claimed the impossible, while he was mocked, beaten, and executed by a world that had given up on real hope, whittling it down to its most manageable, “realistic” forms.

9.) To me this God, who fixes his steady, ever believing sight on the most faithless and depraved misfits, is worth hoping in. And he is not just a listless dreamer. Out of human history’s most pathetic, sick core, he rose with great power, compassion, and joy, painfully disarming our most destructive ambitions, giving us new names.

10.)  I am hoping in the morning that he will wake us all up on the other side of detachment, cynicism, despair, and death, and we will find ourselves laughing again like amazed children.

4 thoughts on “Why I Am Changing My Name

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