Labels and the Impatient World: This is why we’re screwed

***DISCLAIMER***
I have a lymphatic infection in my jaw so I am doped on lots of pretty drugs. So if there are typos (Spoiler: There are) or serious grammatical errors (Also yes) please forgive me.
This is also a touch long, partly drug induced, and perhaps a touch nonsensical but, I had to confront this today so I’m venting. Feel free to skip over and read the next thing I post which I promise will be less soap-boxy.

***END OF DISCLAIMER***

 

One of the biggest things to bug me these days is labels. Ok, so a lot of things bug me. But today, the one that annoyed me the most was labels.

I live in a weird little corner where my personal political, social, and spiritual views don’t fit neatly into a currently defined category. This leaves me in the unique position of having to try in the span of minutes to short hand a belief system that has been developed over a quarter of a century by literally thousands of hours of experiencing life and actively trying to connect with how other people see things. What’s more, it’s just one persons view.

On the short of it I believe people need to be free to be themselves. If everyone involved in any one decision or event is above the age of majority, of sound mind and knowingly, willingly participating…then have at it. Life is to short to spend hundreds of years redefining what other people are allowed to do. If Bob next door wants to dope up and have orgies every weekend, then as long as the orgasmic screams die down by ten, I’m ok.

I get this doesn’t always work. Life is nothing if not grey (gray? Screw you international spell check) lines. But as a rule, if you don’t like it, don’t stare in the persons window. It’s that simple.

And the more I try to understand why people are pissed about things that have nothing to do with them, the more I see it comes to labels. We work so hard to give everyone labels. You are Christian or Atheist, Conservative or Liberal, pro or anti this or that. Everything we are or believe is being cropped down into one or two word titles so that we can “understand” someone’s point of view without actually talking to them.

I get that labels have their place. As a man constantly starving for new knowledge, I appreciate that labels can be useful. It allows you to quickly sum something up without hours of conversation. If we had to completely re-explain the entirety of an idea before being able to address it at all we would never progress because we would all just be saying the same thing over and over. Labels can be good.

But we have two huge problems. First, people forget that a label cannot quickly explain everything a person believes. People are dynamic. They are chaotic, they change and grow and adapt. Even the more closed minded people will evolve over time. And knowing what someone believes without knowing WHY can completely change how it’s perceived.

Second, and honestly the bigger of the two problems, is that when we are still trying to define what we believe we use preexisting labels to explain ourselves to others. And after years and years of doing this, and not getting the chance to truly explain our believes, it becomes easy to just use this inaccurate label. So both sides are no longer trying to see the truth. Now apply this to seven billion unique people with ever adjusting views in an ever shrinking world….the idea of how much we are losing here is staggering.

Someone asked me the other day if I was Wiccan or Warlock. I laughed in their face. Some of you might understand why, but for those who don’t it would be like asking me if I was a Jedi or a Hobbit. In my experience so far the two don’t really exist in the same sphere. But then again, labels.

Anyway, when i stopped laughing, apologized for laughing at them and said no, they wanted to know (apart from why I laughed at them) what I was. Now, I’m being asked to define someone elses labels AND present my whole world view in a few short words in an environment where we aren’t suppose to talk religion or anything controversial. This generally means I just don’t talk, so I really had to work hard.

I tell everyday strangers I’m non-denominational spiritualist. To the people I know better I’m a non-denominational spiritualist sorcerer. I leave out the last part to the general public because crazy is a thing and most people already think I’m that. But it is the best way I can describe who and what I am.

Now, this label doesn’t really tell people much because the words are general (Non-denominational, really?) or they think it’s a joke (Sorcerer? Is that like, a party magician?). But the truth is I am not going to spend the time needed to tell a casual acquaintance in the middle of the work place, with a ever growing crowd (my conversations tend to draw betters on how¬† long before H.R. shows up with a warning) what two and a half decades of life have taught me about the nature of the undefinable.

In the end, we need labels because they make social and philosophical progress possible. But we cannot continue to use labels as an end all answer to what someone else believes. If you want to judge someone based on their beliefs (and you, sir, are already an ass for wanting to do so) then at least attempt a real conversation.
This rule is waved slightly for politicians and religious leaders. If you are going to intentionally flaunt your beliefs to the world it’s up to you to present a valid reason why. If you aren’t going to explain yourself I reserve the right to judge you harshly with no evidence. You’re on tv. You have been warned.

But for the individual person? Don’t judge based on a few short words used by millions to define their position. And please, think about the labels you use for yourself and for others. Those few short words can forever alter the shape of your world. Choose how you define yourself carefully. It’s how the world will judge you.