As a people, we tend to read way to much into just about everything. In North America we are experiencing an unusually mild Winter – at least so far! I have heard just about every imaginable explanation for that fact, from global warming to the Mayan calendar ending in 2012. All of those explanations have at least the possibility of holding some merit, but my intent isn’t to affirm or deny any explanation – much less propose one of my own. What I would like to explore is our apparent need to explain everything.
It begins with labeling people and things. Used properly, such labels can help us to make sense of the things we encounter in daily life – but most of us take labeling way too far. I would argue that by paying attention to the labels we slap on people we avoid actually getting to know them – we label experiences to avoid the feelings that arise in our experiences of them. Labels deaden our lives. Once we know that our neighbor John is a left-handed, uncircumcised, Italian, six-fingered, narcoleptic dwarf we can avoid encountering him altogether. What more could we possibly need to know? Once what we know we think about an activity or experience and apply the appropriate thought-based labels to it, why should we worry about how we felt while we were engaged in the experience?
Moving from people and experiences, we seem to feel the need to explain natural phenomenon – from this particular Winter’s weather to our cars, to brain surgery and rocket science, to human behavior. While people in certain occupations certainly do need to be able to understand and explain specialized information, how many of us use our explanations to avoid actually experiencing life? What if we just gave up being able to explain things or know things and started experiencing them?
We might actually start living life! Of course, actually living life can be scary. We are bound to have those nasty things we call feelings, and those feelings can be messy. We might find that, for a while, we don’t sleep as well as we did before but eventually we will learn to deal with our feelings by working through them instead of running away from them. We might even get to know our neighbor John, and discover that our labels actually misled us into missing life!
Why is it so mild this winter? Beats me, but I sure am enjoying it!