let’s get more semantic

June 12, 2008

This is great practice trying to articulate all this complex stuff. Thanks for all the thoughtful comments people.

Lemme back up and say that I’ve been thinking about language, and specifically labeling, in the context of thinking about my own ethics – how I walk my talk in this world, as well as how my ethics exist in this much bigger picture – the world I’m walking in.

When I talked about willingness and the aggressive language around illness (and let’s say we expand the term “illness” to encompass a wide range of troubles like anxiety, fear and depression) I was trying to get at how I experience my troubles in a world that often seems hell bent on conquering them, and how that has not worked for me at all. And for what it’s worth, having spent thirteen years in social services, it’s not worked real well for lots of other folks who’s relationships with their troubles are often chunked out in those two steps forward and one step back dances. The idea of conquering doesn’t leave much room for the steps back.

After reading through the comments on the last couple posts, I’d like to narrow down my focus on how labels inform how we think of the darkness that exists in the world and the darkness that exists in ourselves.

I’m going to put aside how labels, like mother or boyfriend or geek, can help us understand something about someone, even if the understanding is very abbreviated and full of assumptions that may be off. For instance if I tell you I like to fuck women, in your head you’re likely thinking ok, she’s a lesbian. And even though I don’t use that label for myself and there’s all sorts of things about lesbian life I’m just not in to, at least you get that because I like to fuck women I’m different from the majority of other women and in the U.S. that difference matters. But as I said, I’m putting that conversation aside, at least for now.

I’m also putting aside how labels can motivate us to overcome unwanted behaviors and/or undermine our efforts at cultivating the positive ones. I think I understand what David was getting at in his comments, but I want to dig deeper and that thread seemed more symptomatic of the bigger issue I want to try and talk about it. Quickly, though I will say that it saddens me that there is not broader interest and support in this culture for cultivating curiosity and neutrality (in the Buddhist sense) towards one’s strengths and shortcomings.

Well now I’ve gone and posted so much that I’ve run out of steam for talking about darkness. At least now I know what I’m talking about later.


8 responses to “let’s get more semantic”

  1. ned says:

    keep it coming, i’m enjoying the process. it’s easy to get distracted from the original point (sorry if i’ve muddled things), but i’m primed to hear more about fear’s tough companionship and what you’re taking away from it.

  2. liz says:

    nothing got muddled. i was digging all the the comments and where all i could go with this. just winnowing for now.

    by the way, you write some great sentences.

  3. Bell says:

    Kind of off topic, but slightly connected at least – I’m currently reading “Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind”. It explores irrational behavior, belief systems, language. A very easy science read for the layman. Could be beneficial in exploring some of these thoughts.

  4. proteanme says:

    cool. thanks for the tip rachel.

  5. David says:

    heee-heee you said fuck women….

  6. liz says:

    glad to give you the giggles, david. wish i could say what i said a little more literally.

  7. David says:

    Nope – not me – I joke but some things are what they are and JUST that – like you said you can enjoy things without being a part of group that is associated with those actions but our need to categorize for simplicities sake people tend to put you in that group. ‘They’ put you there but people that know you probably have a much more personal category. My mind: When I think liz I think trust, warm, and calm – that’s my first visceral reaction but that’s just me in how I know you and got to know you.

    maybe this is too simple – ‘simplicities sake’ – maybe Kant was right (been a very very long time so I’m sure I’ll butcher him) on a smaller and a larger scale of how the mind works that the mind acts as a series of filters for information/observation that we categorize at lower and lower levels till we filter to finer details – some things stop getting filtered sooner then others due to impact or direct association or just simple ‘mental training’ meaning on some topics maybe we are simply lazy thinkers (that goes in that pot and this in that one) – while others that are more relevant to our day to day or are more personal life are categorized and associated in a much greater detail and refinement.

  8. proteanme says:

    dang, i was hoping that when you thought of me the first reaction was hung like a horse. oh well. i guess that’s just in my head and it’s info getting filtered out of other people minds.

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