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What is in a name?

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Shakespeare famously said “Rose is a rose by any other name.” It implies that names don’t really matter. The essence of the thing matters. I disagree with the great playwright. Here is why.

What if you walked up to your beloved on Valentine’s day and presented her/him with a beautiful flower and said: “Here is a nice Rosenrotprick I picked just for you my love.” Will you still get that sweet kiss?

Point is, names matter. They matter a lot. Imagine if Usain Bolt is called Peter Slowpoke. Or Steve Jobs is named Kevin Jobless. Johnny Cash is Julian Cashgrab. Furthermore, can you imagine Sitting Bull with any other name than Sitting Bull. Can you see Crazy Horse with the monicker “Jose”? No you cannot. Because that is simply NOT that particular individual, through and through.


People carve their names into ivory and oxen horn and store it in a box made of silver and felt.

I am from a culture where great importance is attached to one’s name. “It is easy to have a child but hard to find a proper name.” is the old saying. Traditionally the middle character is decided by consulting the family tree document and the first name is decided by the elder of the family clan. If the elder cannot decide then he must contact a learned person or pray for wisdom at a temple. Months or even years later an eureka moment may occur and the child will be formally named. They do not name a child lightly because they believe it shapes his/her life in subtle and consistent ways like a constant coastal wind to a pinetree.

So when I came to the west and met about a thousand John’s, Dave’s, Matt’s, Mary’s Anna’s etc. I asked them what do their names mean. They cannot tell me. I was confused. You mean you do not identify with your name? Then why not call yourself R2D2-6Z? Apart from the inconvenience of having 16 boys turn around when you yell “Martin” on a Mennonite school playground it is just so boring to have the same name as millions of others in the world. PEI had an election with two candidates who shared the same first and last name. The Horror! It’s the nightmare of Saskatchewan Roughriders vs Ottawa Roughriders all over again.

I was playing Hearts at a Bible Camp in northern Saskatchewan one buggy, rainy afternoon. Running out of things to wager (I was shoeless at this point) I announced I will take the name of the next winner if I lose this round. I lost. His name was “Richard”.

Fast forward to today. Today I am Zen Wang. In Chinese Zen (or Zheng in proper pinyin) means righteousness. Wang means king. So my grandfather wanted me to be a leader who is righteous. Everytime I want to commit shoplifting or cheat a friend or say things that are untrue or help a wicked person or conceal a crime or delude myself I will think about a king who is supposed to be righteous. I will need to answer the question: “Would a righteous king do this? Would my grandfather be proud of me for this action?” If the answer is no, then I must cease and desist.

Zen also have other meanings in Japanese and English. It is a buddhist state of mind. After my trip to Tibet and living in a monastery for some time, I am growing into this awareness. Some friends jokingly call me Zen Master. I do have a Master’s Degree but I think it is imprudent to call me that. I am a student of the state of Zen and will forever be struggling to attain it. It is an ideal not a status.

Names do matter.

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The brush painted logo of Zen’s forthcoming online channel to help people unlock their creativity

Perhaps you were named after a hero in the Bible, Quran or the Torah etc. Perhaps you were named after your beloved ancestors. Perhaps you were named after a pop culture icon. Whatever the reason You should be able to identify with it. If you cannot  you can consider changing it. Cher and The Rock did it so how hard can it be?

I launched a Patreon page to better serve my readers and fans. I have a sweet offer on my Patreon page. For my Gold Members or above I offer to write their Chinese name in traditional calligraphy. This will be emailed out as a high res JPG. You can print it out and hang it somewhere visible to remind yourself of who you are. Check out the offer at

Thank you for letting me share some ideas with you. Click “Follow” at top right or “Share” below if you want more good things to come your way.



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