A friend of mine has just changed his name by Deed Poll. He changed it to the name he was known by anyway: Jon Eldude. All he was doing was making official what had been accepted amongst his friends for many years.

In case you don’t know, the name is a reference to a character in the Coen brothers movie, The Big Lebowski. The protagonist, played by Jeff Bridges, is known as “The Dude”. He’s a kind of laid-back slacker, more interested in drinking his White Russian than in dealing with the complexities of the world as it explodes around him.

There’s also a religion based upon this character. Known as “Dudeism” – official name The Church of the Latter-Day Dude – it states its purpose as correcting social tendencies towards aggression, and claims Lao Tsu, The Buddha, Heraclitus, Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut amongst its antecedents.

Jon is not the only person I know to have changed his name. At least four other people of my acquaintance have done the same, and there are many more who are known by names other than the one given to them at birth.

For some reason Jon wanted me to be the witness to his legal transformation. He said it would be an honour for him if I would be there as he officially changed his name.

So I went to his house and witnessed as he signed the document, and then counter-signed it to say that he was who he said he was. He then sealed the envelope and gave it to me to post.

That’s when I saw it, as he handed me the envelope. There was this fierce light burning in his eyes. It’s hard to say what it meant exactly. It was like the light of pure pleasure, of excitement, like the glint you see in a child’s eyes on Christmas morning.

But it occurred to me that it had something to do with identity. We don’t have much choice over the name we are given. It is imposed upon us by our parents and then reinforced by the world.

Taking a new name is like taking back your identity. It’s like saying, “look, this is who I really am. Accept me or go your own way!”

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From The Whitstable Gazette 09/11/17

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