Our natural minds are brilliant sorting boxes, making connections between things and labeling them accordingly as a way to understand our world. We do this as a way of gaining knowledge, but default to the practice as a shortcut, a way to assume we know more than we do about a thing, about a person, about a neighborhood, about ourselves than we do.
If we are, as Buddhist monk, philosopher, teacher (oh! there are some labels for you!), Thich Nhat Hanh “…here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness,” then our labels become an impediment, become disabling. Our work, then, is to see beyond labels, and beyond the walls we build around categories, and to see even beyond our self-labels.
Pondering my long-held identity as an artist, it occurred to me that it is a way to view myself as “special” – or at least more special than “not-artists.” It is like we are all moths in a box, each certain we are the rarest butterfly. And in this certainty, we overlook the subtle beauty of moths, intricate in pattern and color and shape.
Given this context, I explored rejecting the label, and found myself comfortable in doing so. I do not intend giving up living creatively, imagining things, bringing them into existence. However, I may lose the label itself as non-useful, or use it as a way to explore whether I have let the label “artist”and its opposite get in the way of true connection and understanding of myself and of others.