Tim Cook, CEO of Apple came out this past week. Being someone in the public eye, this meant he wrote a press release for this announcement. Like many well-known people who “come out”.., he was already out to his family and friends. This means his public coming out was for the rest of us.
On the one hand I love this because it sends the message that you can be authentic AND successful, to the people who struggle with esteem around their sexual identity. Especially young people who are scanning the horizon looking for role models and inspiration to inform their own self-acceptance process.
At the same time, this announcement creates a label for Mr. Cook. It puts a banner on him that will be used to identify and describe him to the world going forward. It is as if we need these adjectives or labels to sort out which category someone belongs in. And of course depending on each of our own perspectives, we determine if the new label is positive or negative.
Millions of people now have a ‘positive’ view of Mr. Cook and what he represents to them. Personally, I fall in this camp… As I loved his statement about his being gay being one of his “greatest gifts”.
At the same time, millions of others see this as ‘negative’, because it means he is now associated with something that for them is unnatural, wrong or bad.
And let’s not forget the majority of people to whom this will be a completely neutral experience. They won’t give it a second thought. His announcement does not create a blip on their radar screen. However, they too will see the label every time it’s used in a media story (pro or con).
It is this obsession with labeling one another that is really on my mind this week. And trust me, I am not just referring to gay and straight. We do it with everything. Gender, occupations, religion, race, financial status, nationality, health, or you name it. If we can label it; we will. One of my favorite labels that we use in the spiritual community is “high” or “low” vibration! And yes, I use this all the time.
The more I think about this, the more I see us using our minds to emulate a computer. We are trying to use binary code, (0 or 1 – Yes or No) to determine how we think and feel. I guess in this day and age with the proliferation of computers and mobile devices this shouldn’t be a surprise. Even for those who think they are computer illiterate, there is a basic understanding of the ‘if, and, or’ foundation of these devices. It has become part of our societal consciousness.
We are adding up the ones and zeros to make sense of what is around us.
But we are so much more than that. We are amazingly unique in every way! We are aware of the uniqueness of our fingerprints and our DNA. Yet, somehow, we have this idea we can be sorted and categorized. You are in this group over here.., I am in that group over there.
Most of the time we think we are using the label on or for someone else. The truth is we use this system of labels to know ourselves better. We are all on a journey to discover our uniqueness, whether we are aware of this or not. We compare ourselves to others to know ourselves better. We measure in better than/less than or like/dislike. Each time we use a label to define ourselves or someone else, we think we have achieved a new level of clarity about ourselves (or them).
In reality, these labels will always be to limiting. We are infinite beings. We are here to learn and expand our awareness of All-That-Is. We are here to know and connect with our true Self more and we do this through interacting with everything around us.
Explore, examine, discover, and reveal the depth and beauty of Self and Other, but let’s forget the labels. We are too fluid and expansive to be restricted by something so small. Today they might appear to fit, but tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow we may discover something unique and amazing about ourselves that if we are too attached to a label, we may miss or never let in!
We are being called to our strange and wonderful uniqueness! I say NO labels!
With Light, Love, and Laughter
Charles, I love the way you share yourself. I’m going throught my 4th divorce. I feel like “one of those” people. I also have moved across the country and feel reluctant to get out and meet people for that reason. Your colum inspires and comforts me each and every week. Rock on….
Thank you Char for sharing your feedback and encouraging words. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot as of late. And, it also sounds as if you are someone who is willing to take risks when it comes to love. This is a beautiful trait! Stepping Stones along the journey! Each of us, and the World needs more loving adventurers! Now go… Rock on! 🙂
My meditation teacher talks about how labeling can be used meditatively to either strengthen a meditation practice or weaken it. When a label is used as a momentary reminder to more deeply abide with a phenomenon, it wakes us up and makes us more mindful and aware. When a label is used as a way to dismiss a phenomenon without paying attention, it puts us to sleep and makes us less aware. Labels are not the problem. How we use them can be. Again, on the positive side, brain researchers have found that the more nuanced our vocabulary, the better able we are to remember the nuances of an experience. All nouns and adjectives are labels. That is another example of how labels can help be more aware of what is. Of course, I’m sure we have all had moments when we are so caught up in using our words to tell ourselves the same story repeatedly, such that we become oblivious to reality. Again, anything with power, such as labels and words, can be used well or poorly.
Thanks for sharing your insights and the perspective of your meditation teacher Choshin! It is very helpful and also deepens the discussion about labels. It is so true that their pluses and minuses to most everything that we do to navigate this amazing journey. I think when I am processing something in my head and needing to get it out so that it is not just running a story… it comes out as sort of black or white. I usually find my way to the awareness that it is all part of the same continuum… So, your feedback is helping me get there even faster! Thanks!!!
Charles, thanks for your reply. Don’t know if this will be helpful to you or not, but when I am running a repeating story, I am usually using focusing on that story to distract myself from feeling something in my body. If I refocus on body sensations and bring gentle acceptance and awareness to the subset of body sensations I am avoiding, to the extent that I am able to be fully present and non-interfering with the feelings, to that extent, the repeating story dissipates.
Interesting place to look AND technique! Thanks for your insights and for being connected!