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Like plenty of other people, I go by many names. Most of the time I am called Fábio. Or Flávio. Or Cláudio. Or none of the above. The thing is, I understand. 40 bits of information plus a diacritic is more than any person can handle after a long tiresome day. Even if they are close relatives. And after all, what is in a name?
Sometimes I am defined by what I do. That means that nowadays some people know me as “that freelancer copywriter”. In other words, I’ve got one of the few jobs in the world where I can get paid to write creatively. In other words still, I earn money for telling stories. Now, I have already had my share of hopping from one job to the next. Besides selling my soul, if I have one, to the market gods, I am also a web designer, although currently I seldom get the chance to get my coding skills cracking. Prior to that, I was a radio broadcaster and producer, with some journalism stints on the side. I have even worked as a call-centre operator, and then acquired a nagging telephone phobia. That is to say, I dream of the day there will be smartpagers for sale.
What people call me also depends on where I was born. I am an Azorean. I received my second name after the patron saint of my island of birth: Miguel, or Michael if you wish to start conversing with angels in your own language. However my identity card says I am Portuguese, and I do live in Lisbon nowadays, which either way must convey the deepest love for the ocean and its shores, which in fact I do share except for the fact I cannot swim. Depending on whom you ask, you might also understand I have a quiet, contemplative temper, which is true of me, or that I tend to believe in fate, which is not.
Part of who I am is defined by the names I call others, too. I was born to a British woman, and quite literally, my mother tongue is English. Jack of two languages, master of none, citizen of every word: I have always lived between two worlds, my surroundings and the land of imagination, while attempting to manage my feelings of permanent exile all at the same time. Things have changed, though, after a series of trips to Great Britain and Ireland in which for the first time I clearly experienced this unexpected pull, an irresistible attraction to the land itself, unlike any land before, the joy of finally belonging. It felt like home.
The land called me by my true name.
Despite my best intentions, I did always return to Portugal in due date, and ever since my first trip I have been renaming the world all over again. Knowing where home is can be a powerful notion, as one cannot truly be lost as long as there is a reference point. To rename every thing I thought familiar following new coordinates is a way of making peace with where I am from, as it no longer has any power claiming I am also its own. I can only recommend it.
In order to keep the connection alive, I have put that introspective, or as some would say, mystic temper of mine into good use. And rest assured, there has been quite some name-calling on that chapter.
As most Portuguese people, I was brought up as a Roman Catholic. Regardless, my first sincere religious experience happened only in my teen years as a regular associate of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Depression ensued, and I went through several phases of varying degrees of religious commitment including, but not limited to, Spiritism, Neopaganism, Gnosticism, the Bahá’í Faith, Buddhism, Daoism, Unitarian-Universalism and yes, some Catholic militancy as a catechist and a youth leader. Eventually I became an atheist, and it was my resilient yet, to some, ludicrous interest in religion that brought me back to contemplating the deities.
I have come a long way trying to grasp what in my attraction to myth and ritual is an actual yearning and what is learnt co-dependency. Prior to Sam Harris and the occasional odd lunatic who happens to feel just like I do, “spirituality” was a bad word to be pronounced in skeptic environments. Even worse, identifying as a “spiritual person” could deem you a follower of Alain de Botton. In an age of minds so open their reasoning abilities have long flown away, it is still quite misunderstood, both by believers and atheists.
As for me, what survived from those days of enduring an abusive relationship with the not-so-Almighty and keeping my mouth shut for my own sake, was the love of Silence itself. Beyond all myths and invocations, speaking louder than the babel of gods, there is mystery, a permanent rumour of anticipation. And I have been digging up my own ability of listening to it, a skill I thought long lost, sometime after the last line of my last poetry notebook.
Yes, I am still a poet. No, it doesn’t mean you will likely find me in your bookshelves any time soon. Firstly, I am not that good in writing in verse, no matter what my well-intentioned friends might tell me, and secondly, no one has time like that to waste on an eternal promise. These days, to paraphrase Ross Nichols, most of my poetry happens in the world of acts. It happens when I sit down in meditation and listen to that proverbial sound of Silence. It happens when I walk slowly, feeling the Earth under my feet, wishing peace to all around me. It happens when I celebrate the seasons, the journey of the Sun from chaos to rhythm and rhyme, from death to death. It happens in the woods, in a warm embrace, in passionate engagement in polemics. Everything is alive and speaks. “Within everything is the seed of everything”.
I would challenge you to find the differences between my former self as a generic Humanist student of the Buddhadharma and my present life as an even lousier practitioner of an Earth-based tradition with all the same Eastern and esoteric leanings. I already used to celebrate the seasons and the moons, but only nowadays do people call me a Druid. But keep checking back on this page for updates. Things change fast.
Being called less than ordinary names is a thing of wonder. Because after all, most people do well in life with less names than the others. The rest of us cannot afford to be nameless. Ever. Whether you are a woman and/or queer, polyamorous and/or black, an atheist, a polytheist, a person with a physical disability, someone poor. An indigent by any other name. Till this day, shortening the distance between me and a normal citizen with full rights still depends on the minds of those who had the blessing of not having to concern about bearing too many names, heavy labels loaded with judgment on what they do in the bedroom, their contribution to demographics or whichever superstitions they might have. Which is why I have this strange attraction to controversy and speaking, rather, writing my mind out and carry polemics to reason’s very last consequences, something which defies even my well-known avoidance of conflicts. Minorities have a right to choose their own names and to transcend them at will. And this, people say, makes me a leftist. And an activist.
This is the day of all names. This is the day of going beyond names. This is the morning of Silence. Loud and clear.
So stick around and grab a cup of tea. This is going to be quite the ride.
I bid you the most unquiet peace.
Yours in the voice of the wind,