Friday, March 21, 2008

Labelmakers

Four weeks ago, I jumped on the Oprah book bandwagon. Yessirree, I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth in hopes of improving myself…and saving the world, of course.

The writing is pretty deep and heady (as are the online Q&A broadcasts), but the principles Tolle introduces, and questions he raises, are fascinating.

One area I found particularly interesting was about how we define ourselves. Humans are masters at labeling—from the moment we learn to speak, we begin giving names to objects and people. As we get older, those labels often become more detailed…and harsh. My mother-in-law is a [NUTJOB]. My ex-boyfriend is a [DOUCHEBAG]. My car is a [HUNK OF JUNK].

Even benign labels can pigeonhole people into certain roles. She’s a [MOTHER] she’s supposed to be nurturing. He’s a [PHD STUDENT] he’s smarter than the average person. I’m a [WRITER] it’s my job to talk a lot.

That last one, the “I” definition, is the most dangerous. By allowing our labels to define who we are, we run the risk of losing other parts of ourselves. Same goes for how we view the labels others press upon us. If we believe we are only what people tell us we are, we’re no better than human hermit crabs (ah, yet another label)—surrounding ourselves with borrowed shells.

But we don’t have to be nurses, wives, wine connoisseurs, sisters, scrapbookers or ball busters. We can just be. We can just be who we feel like on the inside.

Once we redefine ourselves as who and what we are that can’t be named, maybe it’ll get easier to stop applying naming conventions to others.

And maybe, just maybe that will give all of us the opportunity to be something more than we are today.

4 comments:

Hannah said...

What a great post. It was very helpful to read.

Wendi said...

Hi Mel, I stumbled upon your post from Lara's blog today. My name is Wendi and I have been a friend of Brian Watkins since Jr. High. I am currently listening to Eckart Tolle's book "The Power of Now" on cd. I have not read his book about the new Earth, but based on your post, the concepts are quite similar. The "Power of Now" takes perhaps a slightly different spin, but is nontheless very thought provoking. I have found myself having so many of those "ah ha" moments and I am only half way through it. Anyway, thought you might be interested in this book as well. I really enjoyed this post.

semichrmd said...

What a thought provoking post. I have had this book for a couple weeks now & haven't started reading it yet mostly because I couldn't get through Oprah's last two book picks (Middlesex & Eat, Love, Pray). I love the idea of throwing labels to the side & just being you - I think our society focuses way too much on labeling from the time we are born until we die. Looks like I found my new read!

Mel Heth said...

Hannah - Thank you. :)

Wendi - I have heard The Power of Now is very good. I'll definitely give that one a shot in the future.

Semichrmd - Did you start Eat, Pray, Love? It's SOOO good. Elizabeth Gilbert made me want to run off to Italy, India and Indonesia so badly! I read your post - so I know you like trashy autobiographies ;) but I promise E,P,L is worth the read.