We seem bent on giving everything a label and once it’s labelled we no longer truly engage with the object or person we have labelled. Instead, we make judgements and decisions based on the idea of something, not the thing itself. If I label myself as a life-coach, for instance, you probably have a mental reference for what a life-coach is, and whatever your frame of reference for a life-coach, you will project that on to me and make a decision or judgement about me based on whatever associations you have toward the label ‘life-coach.’ Those associations can be good or bad or indifferent.
The problem is this happens mostly on automatic pilot. In other words because your label is already pre-defined, you react without thought and move straight to the set of programs your brain has been instructed to execute when it identifies that label. Now you might not know me from Adam, but my label has helped you classify me, which in turn tells your brain what program to run in relationship to the label ‘life-coach’ and how you should react to that label. What gets missed is who I am as a person. I am not a label. I am an individual. But do we have time to get to know each individual that we meet? Probably not. So labels help us organise our lives more efficiently. But there is a cost to that. We become little more than sophisticated machines executing, in most cases, outdated software.
When was the last time you actually really saw a tree? I mean the nuance of colour, the texture, the smell, the shapes of the individual grooves in the bark, the different life forms cohabiting with the tree? Mostly likely, you saw an object, your brain recognised that object, identified the object as a tree, and then executed a series of programs that tells you how to react to a tree, which is most probably just to acknowledge that it’s there and not to run into it. We no longer look at the tree with the same sense of wonder as if it was our first time seeing this thing called a tree.
Maybe as we get older, we don’t have time to SEE the world with new eyes. We don’t have time for the mystery of life. After all, there’s work to be done, bills to be paid, kids to be picked up from school. And we wonder why happiness is so fleeting. We spend so much time in machine mode, on automatic pilot, that we forget to stop and experience the tree and get lost in the sublime nature of what it IS.
Now go hug a tree. You’ll thank me for it later.