I’ve said it once; I’ll say it sixteen thousand more times. (OK, maybe this is the last time.)
Beware of our human tendency to label.
Beware of our mind’s propensity to take a huge complex revolving globe filled with rainbow stars and lights and dazzling darkness and yawning black holes and make it linear, understandable, limited.
We live in a mystery which cannot be fathomed. Every person or thing that we perceive cannot be boxed and packaged and explained away. Every person you meet crossing the street who looks like (supply your label here) is really a marvelous complex human being who will never–ever–be what your mind determines it to be.
Yet determine and label and discern: that’s what our minds do. They assess. They offer opinion. They attempt to limit the mystery into statements like, “She’s a happy person.” “He’s a pessimist.” “She’s a thinker.” “He’s a dreamer.” “She’s black, he’s white, she’s annoying, she’s friendly, he’s despicable, she’s a fright, he’s a Christian, she’s a Buddhist, she’s some kind of atheist, watch out for that one–”
On and on and on go our assessing brains, whittling away the Mystery like a woodsman carves wood into distinguishable shapes.
Our brains do this because they want to make the complex simple. They can’t help themselves.
They sometimes like to look across the room and see two guys standing together and label them “gay” as if that means something solid, irrefutable, understandable. They sometimes see a white-middle class woman and think they’ve got her pegged. They’ve been known to witness a Chinese woman in front of a diner and label her “Asian” without even peeking beneath the surface to dozens of other characteristics rising in and out of awareness. They sometimes want to label Muslims in a single terrorist category without seeing individuals, unfathomable individuals, moving through the fabric of unfathomable days, some of them more peace-loving than we’ll ever dream of in our most peace-loving moments.
Our minds want to limit. They want to stake claim. As beings who are larger than our minds, we have to keep opening the doorway to reality as it really is–which is larger than sixteen Universes.
I have always thought one of the functions of spirituality or religion is this expansion of thought, this gentle enlargement of the mind’s tendency to limit and control. We start out seeing the holy and sacred in small things and keep opening our minds and hearts until the holy shines through the fabric of the entire world.
Until nothing is left out.
When the mind wants to declare a person or thing entirely evil–we can allow it, at our peril. Or we can open our minds until we can view an afghan of essence. In each human being lives the world. Good and bad. Happy and sad. Despairing and adoring.
At times one quality comes forth stronger than others. We often only claim we are one half of the polarity, as in “I am an optimistic person.” Yet, look–look deeply. I swear you’ll find your missing pessimistic part. The part you’ve rejected in the mind’s claim to be optimistic and sunny.
Don’t get me wrong. Discernment can be a good thing. Discernment can be a wonderful thing. And I am not saying that you will not look at someone or something being harmed and turn your face away. The love that is within us always turns to embrace the whole–and if someone is being harmed we turn to assist and heal the whole.
A million wars have risen and fallen away as we travel this solar system; our true “enemy” is a mind that labels and judges and polarizes and categorizes into black-and-white thinking which does not see the oranges, yellows, bluebirds, forget-me-nots, snow on the pumpkin, garden tomatoes and golden sunsets.
If I have a single prayer today it is: Open this mind to include it all, to allow it all, without pushing anything away. Open this heart to love even wider. May I not resist attempting to open my heart to even what is judged unforgivable. May compassion continue to blossom in the face of suffering–and may my decisions and actions unfold from the largest awareness possible. May the next right action emerge like a butterfly from a chrysalis.
(And if you give me a few more seconds–or a few good years–I will try to open my heart and mind wider and wider in an effort to truly honor the mind’s black-and-white thinking, the hard gavels of judgement. In which case this rant would no longer be necessary. Only gentle compassion would remain. Stay tuned.)