“So… you named your kids after cathedral ruins, a thorny African tree… and a nerdy large-nosed Frenchman who died over 350 years ago?”
This is America after all, not Iceland. We can name our children whatever we want.
As is our wont, this is a blog post about the name we chose for our son. If you’d like to read the prior posts about the rock (Cashel) and the tree (Acacia), you can click for those links.
For information on the mathlete Frenchman's namesake, read on.
Blaise. It's pronounced like “blaze” (as in “phase”), not “blase” (as in chase). If you need to be convinced, the first second of this clip has French footballer Blaise Matuidi saying his own name... since he's French and it's his name, I think we can count him as a pronunciation expert.
First of all, we (me, Cason, especially) just really like the way it sounds. I'm a fan of one or two syllable names that I can envision being called in for dinner from the backyard or yelled across a basketball court or soccer field, so “Cash,” “Acacia” (well, “Cacia”), and “Blaise” all fit the bill.
However, it was Colleen who picked the name in the end, because after her brave performance in the delivery room, I told her she could name him whatever she wanted, including “Puff the Magic Dragon” or “Princess Consuela Banana-hammock.” Surprisingly, she picked one of my favorite names instead of one from her list. She said that he looked more like a Blaise, and I agree.
Blaise is a French name that actually means “a cleric” as well as, “stutterer, to lisp or stammer.” Not the most inspiring meanings. However, we’re found a few places that say the name could also derive from the Greek name Basilius which comes from “basíleios,” which means “royal, kingly.” So we may just go with “royal/kingly” instead of “lisper.” Making up name meanings is kind of our thing.
The best meanings for Blaise are actually on urbandictionary.com… I wish my named meant “a fly person who beats down the haters,” “a nice guy who plays soccer and has amazing hair,” or “someone with copious amounts of swagger.” Obviously the soccer and hair one is good, but I'm not sure what to make of most of those, so let's just move on. (Be aware there is crude and inappropriate language elsewhere on those linked pages.)
More than the meaning, a big part of the reason we like the name Blaise is for the historical figures1 that share that designation, most notably the aforementioned large-nosed Frenchman.
(The following is a probably-too-long section about Blaise Pascal… feel free to skip ahead to the middle name section if you’d prefer. He’s just such a cool guy - I just couldn’t help myself.)
While I can appreciate his genius, I’m no scientist or mathematician, so the main reason that Blaise Pascal resonates with me are his philosophical writings.
After a time of drifting spiritually, at age 31 Pascal had a “religious vision” in the night that changed his life. It is said that he took notes immediately after the vision that stated "FIRE. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars… heartfelt joy, peace. God of Jesus Christ… May I never be separated from him.” It is said that he kept the note sewn into his garments wherever he went, something that was discovered by a servant after his death.
|A philosopher deep in thought... or just gassy|
His main theological work, Pensées (“Thoughts”), was published posthumously as it was not finished before his death at age 39. Though I don’t pretend to have understood all of it, I’ve read Pensées and found it to be refreshing in its straight-forward rational and self-awareness. It doesn’t paint the world in complete black and white, yet the preponderance of evidence Pascal puts forward essentially develops Pascal’s Wager, a philosophy with which I naturally sympathize. For someone who was so brilliant in the world that he could observe, touch, measure, etc., Pascal had an incredible understanding that there was more to life than just the physical and that life is a balance between the heart and reason.
In Pensées, he wrote:
“It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason… We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart...”
“If we submit everything to reason, our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural. If we offend the principles of reason, our religion will be absurd and ridiculous . . . There are two equally dangerous extremes: to exclude reason, to admit nothing but reason.”
I’m not going to include a full biography of Blaise Pascal here (though I would encourage anyone to research his life story and works), and we’re not naming our son after him because we want to pressure Blaise Wittig to be a brilliant scientist/philosopher or because we believe Blaise Pascal was anywhere near perfect.
We also pray that Blaise grows up to be someone not afraid to fight tyranny and stand up for the oppressed - even if the oppression comes in the name of religious conviction – and that he would experience God in the same way that Pascal did when God reached out and drew Blaise to Himself - with FIRE in lieu of just reason.
I have about 1,000 favorite Blaise Pascal quotes (sample: “Too much and too little wine. Give him none, he cannot find truth; give him too much, the same.”) that I wanted to include in this post, but will instead append to the end for brevity’s sake. He really was an amazing guy.
1. Another famous Blaise is Saint Blaise, the patron saint of wild animals (appropriate for our critter-filled household), woolcombers(?), and sore throats(??), who was martyred for his faith in the fourth century in Armenia. He is famous for healing people and animals alike. Legend has it that the saint miraculously saved a child from choking to death on a fish bone.
|BabyCacia already loves her little bro|
The Ramsay name carries a weighty legacy, with many amazing people up and down the family tree. Most notably to us, are Bill and Rose Ramsay, Colleen’s grandparents who live in Berea and about whom we seem to constantly be learning amazing tidbits into their lives. We sincerely pray that young Blaise is inspired by and can live up to the incredible Ramsay heritage.
Also, Ramsay is a Scottish surname that means "from Ram's Island" or "wild garlic." So that's fun. The legend goes that the “-AY” RamsAYs changed from RamsEY when the “-EY” Ramseys got the reputation for being horse thieves… though apparently, if you ask an “-EY” Ramsey, their story is exactly the same in the reverse. Horse-thieves or not, we’re proud that Blaise has Ramsay as his middle name.
Since I’ve written the “Wittig” portion of these name posts before, I’m just going to plagiarize myself and copy it here again:
|With Aunti Corinn|
In 4 years of having "Cason Wittig" announced over the loudspeaker when I played high school basketball, it was never pronounced correctly at a road game. Not once. I think the only person to ever actually pronounce Wittig correctly was my crazy German soccer coach who would scream "Vittig!" at 12-year-old me from the sidelines in between muttered German curse words.
Incidentally, Wittig comes from the German word for "wood" or possibly the word for "clever"... although I was told as a kid that it meant "little wooden head." I couldn't find any evidence of the "little wooden head" meaning on the internet, but I'm going to pass that quirky interpretation on to all of my kids because it is way more fun. Also, Wittigs love ice cream, so we've got that going for us.
|Everybody wants milk 1st thing in the morning...|
We’ll write more later about Blaise’s birth story and how life is going with three kids under 26 months old (spoiler alert: chaotically). Thanks for all of the love and support, and for reading this ridiculously long post. In the words of Monsieur Pascal, "I would have written a shorter blog, but I did not have the time.” (Rough translation)
Cason for Colleen and the whole crew
PS - As if our lives needed to get any crazier, 3 days after Colleen gave birth to Blaise, our dog Indy had puppies that will be ready to go to homes by Christmas 2014. Check out DoodlesByRosie blog for cute pictures and more info if you're interested.
As promised, here are some of my favorite Blaise Pascal quotes:
|Love at first sight|
“Curiosity is only vanity. We usually only want to know something so that we can talk about it.”
|Cheeks for days|
“We are generally the better persuaded by the reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others.”
“Little things comfort us because little things distress us.”
“Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.”
“Reason's last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it.”
"Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it."
"There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus."
“If we submit everything to reason our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural. If we offend the principles of reason our religion will be absurd and ridiculous . . . There are two equally dangerous extremes: to exclude reason, to admit nothing but reason.”
“Knowing God without knowing our wretchedness leads to pride. Knowing our wretchedness without
“Lust is the source of all our actions, and humanity.”
“There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who think they are sinners and the sinners who think they are righteous.”
“Man's sensitivity to little things and insensitivity to the greatest things are marks of a strange disorder.”
“Jesus is a God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.”
“Vanity is so firmly anchored
|She loves him|
“We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us seeing it.”
“Our imagination so magnifies the present, because we are continually thinking about it, and so reduces eternity, because we do not think about it, that we turn eternity into nothing and nothing into eternity, and all this is so strongly rooted within us that all our reason cannot save us from it.”
“There is no denying it; one must admit that there is something astonishing about Christianity. 'It is because you were born in it,' they will say. Far from it; I stiffen myself against it for that very reason, for fear of being corrupted by prejudice. But, though I was born in it, I cannot help finding it astonishing.”
“One has followed the other in an endless circle, for it is certain that as man's insight increases so he finds both wretchedness and greatness within himself. In a word man knows he is wretched. Thus he is wretched because he is so, but he is truly great because he knows it.”
“To deny, to believe, and to doubt well, are to a man what the race is to a horse.”
"God either exists or He doesn't. Either I believe in God or I don't. Of the four possibilities, only one is to my disadvantage. To avoid that possibility, I believe in God."