The story about the little girl in India with multiple arms, legs and organs who will soon undergo a lengthy and rare operation might have completely escaped my attention had I not noticed her name: Lakshmi, after the Hindu goddess with four arms. Lakshmi the goddess represents wealth, love and beauty. I instantly loved this girl’s parents for their genius in giving her such a name.

Religious & mythological lore abounds with accounts of remarkable births; the deity child born into the world is typically deformed or otherwise remarkable, usually in a problematic way. There is the story of the half-boy, who comes into the world weeping, the Greek god Hephaestous, whose deformity caused his mother to reject him, the numerous stories of heros and saviors whose birth is so problematic they are orphaned or abandoned at the earliest age. Joseph Campbell once described a lecture by a Buddhist teacher who told the story of how the Buddha came into the world. As a baby, the Buddha pointed one hand up, one hand down and said, “Worlds above, worlds below; no one in the world like me.” The teacher noted that people tend think this is remarkable for a newborn baby. “But what does any baby say when he enters the world and cries?” the teacher asked. “He says: Worlds above, worlds below; no one in the world like me!”

I love that little Lakshmi’s parents could look at their deformed child and see in her the goddess entering the world.

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