Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Labels Aren't Just Used For Nutrition!

I have a Zen Calendar on my office desk that I bought at 5 and Below on a whim.  Zen is pretty cool, although much of it is a little too mystical for my liking.  This calendar occasionally has some Taoist words of wisdom as well though, so that makes up for it I guess.

Today’s wisdom was great: 

I love this.  And here’s why.  The world is an awfully complicated place, and yet we are constantly oversimplifying in just about everything we do.  It more commonly happens within our relationships with people, but let me step back and explain this from a very basic standpoint first.  You have a pen on your desk.  Anyone who is reading this is now visualizing a pen.  Does your pen have black or blue or red ink?  Is it a ballpoint pen or a gel pen or something else?  Does it have a rubber grip, or is it a cheap piece of plastic?  There are quite literally thousands of different styles for pens.  Yet they all are explained away with one word?

Now let’s think about people.  Let’s lump all the fat people together, and I can do this because I’m fat. =P  Now let’s use some logic (flawed logic, but logic nonetheless) and say that all fat people are lazy.  Well, we could be correct with this statement, but that's rather unlikely.  I’m probably the last person you could ever call lazy.  I jog two miles a day four times a week.  I try to write 5000 words a day.  I work from 8:30 to 5, which routinely involves solving technical puzzles and riddles that would boggle most people’s minds.  In the evenings I entertain a three-year old.  I may be lazy in journaling what I eat and following dietary guidelines, but does that make me lazy as a person?  And what exactly qualifies a person as being fat, anyway?  I most certainly am fat, obese by doctor’s standards, so I’m not counting myself in this.  But if someone is, say, six feet one inch tall and a hundred and ninety pounds—right on the border of being overweight according to a standard BMI chart, is he/she fat?  I could point you to thousands of athletes who are six foot one inch tall, weigh well over two-hundred pounds, and would never be considered fat.  Fatness, to me, is in the eye of the beholder.  It’s a label.  And it’s not a very nice one.

I’m not going to go on and on about how people bully others with labels here—I’ll save that for another time—but you get the picture.  Labels are so misleading.  Except maybe when it comes to relationships—if a person says he/she doesn’t want to label a relationship with terms like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or whatever, chances are that person is looking to dump you as soon as someone with nicer, ahem, labels comes along.  Labels mean EVERYTHING in relationships.  Am I right?

But labels are pervasive in our world.  Try reading a technical journal some time, especially one relating to a Microsoft product.  You’ll read about things such as Active Directory, Hyper-V, group policies, DNS, NAT, blah blah blah.  I’m really quite shocked to see immigrants who learn English as a second language (ESL) then jump into the IT field and become successful.  As if English isn’t hard enough to learn alone, they then have to master technical jargon.  Add in a programming language, which can be just as mystifying, and it’s just all that more impressive.  No wonder so many people complain about immigrants taking all of our jobs.  Far too many of us have too much difficulty mastering English alone, and we were even born here!

Of course, we live in a now, now, now and a me, me, me society, where most people want things done yesterday and often only worry about their own concerns.  When speaking to people like this, you can’t exactly use a hundred different words to describe something simple like a pen.  But you can think with an OPEN MIND.  When the reverse happens—when they talk to you about a pen, or a fat and lazy person—you can understand that their labels are simply that.  Labels.  Utterly inefficient words used to describe something that is clearly a thousand-fold more complex.

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