Christian, evangelical, liberal, progressive, fundamentalist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, theist, deist, atheist, post theist, pantheist, panentheist, naturalist, religious naturalist, humanist, spiritual humanist, spiritual, spiritual but not religious, religious and not spiritual, spiritual and religious, neither spiritual nor religious……….there are enough labels flying around these days to start a philosophical supermarket.
When it comes to human beings, labels have limited value. Store items need their labels fixed firmly in place. People are better off keeping a loose hold on labels. You and your thoughts are so much more than any one, two, three or four word label could ever capture. Better to write your labels in pencil because they are likely to change over time. There is no need to feel trapped in a label from the past.
In fact some of the desire for labels comes from an egoic need to be special and marked. We end up in our own philosophical brand label competition – my label is better than yours, my label is more popular than yours, my label is more elusive and ambiguous than yours. Who are we kidding? There’s no lasting self worth in a stick-on label. Eventually the adhesive wears out and usually before you are ready.
My motto is to be open to everything and attached to nothing, including labels. This is the path to freedom and inner peace. I take truth from where it presents itself and keep moving towards the light. If a label nudges me along for a while, I use it. If its effect begins to fade, or it begins to make me feel smug, I leave the label for the open roads of possibility. At my best moments, I am at peace with my true self which is beyond any label because it doesn’t depend on any particular thoughts or feelings for verification. It is my born identity, and like the amnesic superspy Jason Bourne, I sometimes struggle to remember its origins. It is my unchanging essence that is one with the source of life.
It’s in this space between the labels that I am most at ease. It’s also in the space between the labels that the best human interactions take place. We can genuinely connect from a place of openness and without defense. We have so much more in common than our labels can even hint at. The poet Rumi described it like this-
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
For now, I choose the label that simply reads, “I am.” What is the way? “I am!” Where is the truth? “I am!” Who is the life? “I am!” Of course, you are too. Many “I ams” make a powerful “We are”, freed from territorial defense and related at the most intimate level.