Monday, April 08, 2013

In the Name of Lilith

"We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth."

Lilith to Adam
from The Alphabet of Jesus ben Sirach

In the past few days, after I have learned of my unborn son's sex, I had been dreaming of suitable names for him and going online to look up their root languages, origins, literal meanings, and historical significance. I am talking about an English name, of course, since it is the language my brain speaks internally. I wouldn't even know how to begin giving a Chinese name to anyone, so I am going to just not think about it for now with the vague plan of hiring a Taoist priest later to divine one from the entrails of poultry for me. Or something.

So, I had a few in mind and after meticulously agonising on the worth of each, I eventually decided on one. I loved it. I thought it was perfect. For now, that is going to remain a secret between the missus and I until his birth (or until I think of a better one). One day, I will write about that name, but today is not that day.

However, in my quest to name my male child, my mind stalled and idled many times on the alternate reality daydream of having instead a daughter. Perhaps there was an absence of the weight of consequence in a hypothetical scenario, but I find that naming a daughter to be a far easier and more organic experience. There is no contest: she must be called Lilith.

I first came across the name (and the myth) of Lilith in Jewish folklore, from The Alphabet of Ben Sirach in the following passage,

While God created Adam, who was alone, He said, 'It is not good for man to be alone'. He also created a woman, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith immediately began to fight. She said, 'I will not lie below,' and he said, 'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.' Lilith responded, 'We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.' But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air. Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: 'Sovereign of the universe!' he said, 'the woman you gave me has run away.'

We all know how the story supposedly went from this little fan-fiction of the Bible. God would later replace Lilith with Eve, a woman created not from the same dust from whence he came but from his rib. Presumably, Eve had no problem with being on the bottom when the two grind groins.

Lilith was literally demonised in the subsequent parts of the story in Ben Sirach where she was described as a mother of demons who brings sickness to infants and God himself cursed one hundred of her children to die each day - all because she refused Adam's claim to superiority and ditched him because his fragile manhood is threatened when he's not on top when they mash genitals. For centuries this tale served as a cautionary tale for uppity women and warns them of the consequences of disobeying the perpetually insecure patriarchy. Lilith is the archetypal evil feminist and ex-wife.

Lilith John Collier
Lilith, by atheist artist John Collier.

I have seen many cases of expectant parents on the internet who are name-hunting expressing interest in Lilith as a baby name but fear the negative connotations. Me? I think there's nothing negative about it - what is negative are the people who are ruining a perfectly good girl's name by having antiquated ideas about womenfolk. I thought that she should be a role model for girls. She has her own mind and speaks it. She refused to be any man's bitch and rather strike out on her own than to submit to some whiny, entitled jerk-off. She does not even take shit from God. They are all qualities I would love my pretend daughter to have.

The semitic root of the name, L-Y-L (layil) in Hebrew means night. While night can conjure up images of darkness, danger, and devils, it is also a time of serenity and peace, of dreams and inspiration, and of secrecy and mystery. I put to you that have not known true beauty until you have witnessed the infinite star-encrusted dome of the universe in the middle of a desert on a moonless night as I had. Is it not praise to be compared to it? Shakespeare's summer day ain't got a patch on it, I tell you.

Unfortunately, I am not expecting a daughter, but to all of you out there who are, seriously consider Lilith - reclaim it from the religious pre-emancipation dumb-masses who consider women with minds of their own to be she-demons. It is a pretty name, and I think it's pretty awesome for a girl's name.

Namer of hypothetical daughters,
k0k s3n w4i

Friday, April 05, 2013

Hey There, Little Stranger

"Everything grows rounder and wider and weirder, and I sit here in the middle of it all and wonder who in the world you will turn out to be."

Carrie Fisher

"It's a baby boy."

The text flashed on my phone and the moment I read it - and in the split second I understood what it meant - is the moment the fetus becomes a real person for me. There is a continuum from the day he was conceived, when he was just one cell silently and rapidly fissioning in my wife's body without either of us realising it until weeks after it had begun, to the very point I learned that he is a boy. Before then, he was more concept than flesh. Now, almost abruptly, he became defined. He is a boy. I do not yet know his gender or his sexuality; I do not know how he will look like, or what his likes and dislikes are; I do not know his hopes and fears and dreams, or even his name because we haven't thought of one yet. Neither does he. This is the beginning of discovery. This is a person whom I love to know more and more of. It's like I have moved past the first chapter of a new book - it took awhile to get going but the story finally had me hooked.

Our Baby Boy
Download in progress... 46% complete.

"It weighs two-hundred plus grams. And it's kicking."

He is slightly heavier than a good-sized orange and is quickly outweighing it as I write these words. If I close my eyes, I can almost feel his weight in my hands. I can feel the unimaginable potential of all he can be, and all that I can be for him resting upon my palms. And he is kicking! I never knew how "alive and kicking" came about as an expression but it felt like it's meant to describe the moment an unborn child test his tiny limbs for the first time, reaching out to its tiny world. My son had arrived. He had made contact with physical reality and touched his mother.

"We made a human being. We made a person," I said to my wife. I am in a state of wonder at the sheer unlikelihood of it all. Our kid made it. I may not know very much about him yet, but I do know that he came from a 3.6 billion years long unbroken chain of life stretching all the way back to the very first ancient cell on primeval Earth. The mitochondria that sustain him, strewn uncountably like stars through the cosmos of his body, are heirlooms from his mother's side - from his greatest and grandest of mothers living more than 1.6 billion years ago. The Y-chromosome he carries in the centre of each and every one of his cells were bequeathed to him, handed down from father to son, by a continuous line of fathers representing more than 160 million years of legacy. He is the distillation of life itself, and - dare I suggest - its meaning. He was born from my love for Cheryl and her love for me, and it is a love that echoes from the past and whispers into the future. I believe that a child is the closest thing two person in love could ever get to become one. That is a scientific fact. Hereafter, every child that is born after us into perpetuity is proof and testament that for a single brilliant moment that belongs to us in the timeline of eternity, there was love and it lives on still.

And this is what makes our baby a real miracle.

Assistant miracle-worker,
k0k s3n w4i