Tag Archives: human

Names, Not Labels

31 Jan

I love words. Obviously. I’m a writer. “Love words” is kiiiiind of in my job description. Words are lovely, useful, wondrous things with a great deal of power. And I understand that it’s important for people to have words, to have specific terms with meaning, they can use to describe themselves. To understand themselves.

But all the same, sometimes I wish we didn’t use some of the words the way we do. Because as important as naming terms are, there can be a lot more damage done when they get turned into labels. When a word is no longer purely an identification but a categorization. Identifications expand an existence. Categorizations shrink them.

I wish that certain words would describe but not delineate. Specify but not separate. Define but not divide.

Words like trans, male, gay, butch, woman, and straight. Words like disabled, elderly, mentally ill, druggie, cutter, and poser. Words foreigner, Democrat, GOP, Libertarian, celebrity, homeless.

These words are not an evil unto themselves. But too often we – you and me, people – use them to draw a line between us, the “people,” and the others. By calling someone a label that we don’t share, we push them beyond the realm of the experience we have in being human. By carving humanity into little boxes of likeness, we lose sight of the fact that we are all, in the end, human.

And inevitably, some – even ourselves, even if unwittingly – are bound to assign a “naturalness” to one of the terms out of a group. “This is what’s normal, this is what the null hypothesis looks like, this is the ground state of humanity.” And the ones who don’t fall under that term become something strange. Something different from that which resides within us. We deny full legitimacy to those without our particular label and come to understand them only in terms of deviation.

Thanks to The Lazy Yogi for the image.

Thanks to The Lazy Yogi for the image.

But what if we didn’t look at all the ways humans can exist as deviations from ourselves? What if we recognized each as a fully true expression of all the possibilities of what humanity looks like? What if we viewed the human condition not as bound and filed in a dictionary but as interwoven with no particular hierarchy into a novel? What if we stopped categorizing all the words we might type out of those four keys in our DNA and started seeing how they all fit together to make a larger sense? What if we gave ourselves names, instead of mere lists?

I’d like it if human thinking as a whole could move beyond trying to force us all into our separate encyclopedia entries and started using all the words we’ve got around to describe, not prescribe, instead. I want an identity, not a categorization.

You can get more information out of a narrative, anyway. Encyclopedias and dictionaries have always been so limited in what they have to tell you.

Cell Phone Towers

1 Dec

Just some wistful dystopian poetry for you all that popped into my head during what’s passing for my “this morning.”

cell phone tower

Cell Phone Towers

We live our lives of drinking reheated coffee while we get up too early or sleep in too late.
We are anchored to our reality by the tether of cell phone wires plugged into wall outlets,
letting us know when we are about to lose connection to the functionality we have made of ourselves,
when we will lose our place as one more cog in the great spinning wheel
we have made of this earth, one large machine run by the breath of its inhabitants.
I do not rue the network we have defined ourself as, not entirely,
for there’s something to it, being able to have at least the merest scrap of you,
in the sound of your voice while you are in China and I am in Belize,
but I wonder if perhaps there would not be so much distance,
if we’d focused more on how to climb tree branches instead of success ladders.
Maybe we wouldn’t be drinking so much reheated coffee,
and maybe my perfume would be the smell of you, instead of this odor to mask the loneliness.