In our last post, “What’s In a Label?” we explored why we assign (and accept) labels that are thrust upon us. I wrote:
“The real question to ask here is: Which labels will you choose to own and which ones do not belong to you?”
That’s a good question…a good starting question. But there’s more. There are bigger questions/topics to ponder relating to labels—and that’s where we begin today.
What if we refused to own (or assign) ANY labels? What would our world look like with NO labels? Zero labels. Is there such a thing as a “good” label? Does this line of questioning sound boring? Were you hoping for something a bit more exciting? Something with explosions?
Tell me, could you get excited about a world where:
Your sons and daughters were never labeled according to:
- the color of their skin
- body shape/size
- intelligence level
- a medical diagnosis
- how much money you make
- the type of dwelling they live in
- the clothes, shoes, backpack, or smartphone they have
Let’s take it down a notch from the world. Could you get excited about a community, or how about a school system or a set of peers that didn’t label your sons and daughters according to the list above?
Now how about this? Could you get excited about being part of a world where war didn’t exist? Think about that for a moment—a world without war?
What? A World Without War?!
You may be thinking I’ve stepped off the deep end…labels, war, where is she going? On one hand, war may be something distant in your mind. Something that happens “over-there” to people you don’t personally know. Something that happens in movies. Don’t be naive. It happens to your sister’s husband, it happens to your nephew who is graduating from West Point, it happens to many of your childhood friends. And yes, it happens to strangers, too.
As a reader of a spiritual blog like Trust Life Today, one that stems from a belief that we are all connected, how could war happen “out-there?” There is no such thing.
On the other hand, you simply may think I’ve gone off the deep end because there’s no obvious correlation between labels and war.
I’m no history-buff, but even I can scan what little history I do know and see that at the core of many wars lie:
- differing religious, cultural, or political beliefs
- oppression (in the case of ending slavery)
- racial discrimination (attempted genocide of the Jews by the German Nazis)
Religion, culture, political affiliation, race…aren’t each of those labels? They are things we see both on a large scale and also within our communities.
The Land of What?
And they all fall under something I call The Land of Divisive. The Land of Divisive, by definition, is a land where the inhabitants thrive on hostilities and disagreements towards one another—and the quickest way to enter The Land of Divisive is to label. See, each time I label myself (or you) this or that, I divide myself from you; I no longer come from a place of oneness, but rather from a place of separateness.
To be clear, The Land of Divisive isn’t “over-there,” it’s right here within each of our communities, within each of our children’s schools. And in some cases, it’s even closer, it’s right here within our hearts.
Just between you and me, when I think about large scale division, like what we see between religions and between countries, I become overwhelmed. My emotions begin to expand in a jagged, uncontrollable, bouncy sort of way. In order to cope, I seize the bounciness, shove it aside, under the rug, out the door—anywhere but in my head.
Until the emotions begin to slowly and craftily swim back inside, one little wiggly-fishtail at a time. They know better than to bounce back, that would draw too much attention. Swim, wiggle, bounce, even tiptoe, it doesn’t matter, the emotions are back and they must be addressed.
So I start in the best place I know of: inside me.
I don’t know about you, but ME can be a rather large landmass itself. So I hone in, starting in my heart. What does that look like? It looks like this: I take a look at my beliefs, my beliefs that pulse, We are all connected. We are one. Then I ask myself, “Am I living these beliefs? Do my actions reflect these beliefs?” If the answer is yes, I breathe in that feeling, noticing the jagged, uncontrollable, bouncy emotions have been replaced by peaceful ones. Chest-breathing has made its way south and has become belly-breathing. Just by virtue of my breath, a signal is sent to my brain saying, “All is well.” (inhale) “All is well.” (exhale) Peace not only enters, it envelops me.
I start with me, with my beliefs at a heart-level. Only once I am squarely there, in that state of peaceful trust, can I begin to radiate out to my children, then to those in my inner circle and to those in my community.
“The first act of insight is to throw away the labels.” ~ Eudora Welty
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