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#individuality #society #authority ⚑ Palo Alto, California

Mr. White (Say My Name) duoton by

Will the real Mr. White, please stand up!

Personally, I find “about pages” unrealistic for conveying or absorbing personal narratives, as they often feel disconnected from the present and devoid of context. After all, the written word’s context is a collaboration between writer and reader. Nonetheless, this entire site is a reflection of myself; it is me! Should you require some background information, simply search for “g.e. levèlsi” on LinkedIn.

say my name

As for my name, I favor a mononym — levèlsi (my surname) — or the initialism “LC.” I choose to write my name in lowercase letters. This stylistic decision, akin to the use of spaced em-dashes, represents a form of resistance against the imposition of authority over personal names. Isn’t it peculiar that in the year 2019, while we have progressed to recognizing more than two genders for official documents and the use of custom pronouns on social media, we have still not reached a freedom to choose how others say our name?

Names wield power, reinforcing particular forms of authority and inequality. Each time we utter our surname, we are accompanied by the presence of our ancestors in our consciousness. We must be mindful of this, either to avoid disappointing our parents and kin, or to mask the disgrace our siblings or compatriots have brought upon us. Partially due to this, and partially owing to the automated cultural emphasis on equality and approachability in social interactions, we have all become first-name people, even in the most elevated artistic surroundings.

While the use of first names undoubtedly assists us in dismantling barriers and fostering a sense of openness and camaraderie, we relinquish our distinctiveness in doing so. By employing only our first name, we assume the attributes of a commoner, a serf, a subjugated individual, prioritizing conformity to societal norms over individuality and uniqueness. As such, I have chosen not to use my first name; so then, what is it?

I bear the first name of Gleb Eliseyvitch. The trailing “-vitch,” which may prove challenging to read is a patronym. The given name itself, “Гълѣбъ,” is an antiquated and rather infrequent East Slavic appellation of Nordic origin, where “Guðleifr” translates to “heir of God.” Additionally, “Leif / Leifur” can mean “beloved” or “with love.” My family of origin never observed any religious tradition, be it Christianity or Judaism. This was unconventional and perilous during the Soviet era. The subsequent “Arr-Eff regime” adopted a materialistic-agnostic stance, only to transition to a messianic Orthodoxy.

My grandmother selected the name “Lev” for me, a moniker shared across both Slavic and Hebrew traditions. In the Russian vernacular, it means “a lion.” This is hardly an unusual name, and the notorious Lev Tolstoy is renowned for the multitudes who falsely claim to have completed reading his novel “War and Peace.” However, when combined with my other names, I risked becoming a walking target in the anti-Semitic climate of the early 1980s, prompting my mother to refashion it to the more ambiguous “Gleb.”

“Lev” is a common female Israeli name meaning “heart” (Hebrew: לב, Loeb, Löb)1. The Yiddish variant is “Leib.” In German, it appears as Löwe, Löw, Loew, Lowe or Loewe - all referring to a lion. Or is it a lioness? Intriguingly, this name is seldom given to boys in both Hebrew and German traditions, more often used as a surname. It is undoubtedly feminine in nature, akin to the English word “sweetheart.” Yet, the lion is a muscular wild feline, a symbol of strength and leadership. The astrological “Leo” represents a fixed modality linked to fire and the Sun. In contrast, my actual sun zodiac is “Cancer” - a cardinal feminine sign associated with water and the Moon. The mythical Leo, the “Nemea,” was a monster that could not be killed with any human weapon. How can one so feminine also be so masculine? How can an individual be self-centered and selfless at the same time?

  1. There is an old book “Chovot HaLevavot” (Duties of the Hearts) that I struggled to study once. It is written in by a Jewish philosopher Bahya ibn Paquda in 11th century Aragon, Spain. A rare example of non-dogmatic religious text discoursing on the heart and soul of life and the means of creating an intimate spiritual relationship with the Divine (The Self, the Unity, Ultimate Love).↩︎