Monday, November 14, 2011

Don't get hung up on labels

Friends, this is the message I gave yesterday at Meeting for Worship as best as I can remember it:

Why do we affix labels to others and ourselves? What good does it do to separate ourselves from others? To create "us" and "them" and "this group" and "that group?" We are part of different groups. Why do we say that we're x, y, and z and that we're not part of a and b? What good does it it do to be x, y, & z and not understand a or b? If we don't see the good in a or b, then how can we understand? How are we to know that a or b doesn't lead to x, y, or z? We all have a common humanity, and we are all unique. Don't affix labels, Friends, or at least, don't get hung up on them.

After Meeting for Worship was over, we had some really good discussion, which gave us some more things to think about. Here are some of them:

Labels are not necessarily a bad thing. As a matter of fact, self identification can be a very powerful thing. The problem occurs when we can't get past the labels.

Think about how groups include or exclude people. Humans are hardwired to form groups, probably as a survival instinct. Often, though, we exclude the people who are different from us. How do we work on not excluding people?

We also talked about the complexities of group dynamics in encouraging people to smoke and overeat. How can we discourage people from ever starting to smoke? How can we encourage healthier eating habits when food has so many emotional issues tied to it that nothing to do with proper nutrition?

One person asked, "Why is poetry so inaccessible?" I responded by saying that I write poetry for myself to process things. If others can read it and get something from it, great, but that's not the real reason I write poetry. Susan said that some poetry is inaccessible because you have to know about the influences on a poet & understand some of the history.

We talked about other things, too, but I decided to post this to give others things to think about as well.

1 comment:

  1. Aran, For me, the way to include someone that I might consider "other" is by practicing compassion. As I've been reading the book "How to Want What You Have" this month, I came across this description of compassion that really helps me avoid judging others:

    "Compassion is the intention to think and act as if you are no more entitled to get what you want than anyone else is. This intention is based on the conscious understanding that everyone wants about the same things for about the same things. Almost all human desires arise from similar instinctive sources...We differ only in the strategies we choose and the opportunities and talents available to us."