Sunday, October 30, 2011


All relatively intelligent beings sort experiences and things into different categories. This is our basic way of learning things and taking this experience to evaluate new experience. A simple example to that process would be a toddler learning animals: Let’s say the urban family has a dog and they venture out to an agricultural area for vacation. The kid sees a cow and says “big dog” because it fits the depiction of a four legged furry being. Now it will probably be told that this is a cow and during the trip it might learn different sorts of animals such as pigs, cats, sheep and the – two legged – chicken. It learns that “dog” is a sub-group of “dog like things” called animals and that there are lots of other sub categories. Also, the new category “four legged beings with fur” will be broadened by the example of “chicken” which has two legs and feathers, yet parents call it animal too…”What the faaaaaaaak?????” – No problem, just change the label. 

In our head, we do these kinds of things all the time when we learn new stuff. Yet when we get older, the process of changing labels and adding new categories decreases a lot. By the time we are considered adults, our system of categories has pretty much formed and we see the world through a sort of prism that splits reality in a unique way for each person. This prism is formed by earlier experiences and it gets harder to change one’s view of the world with every new experience we add to our set of drawers. 

It is easyto imagine our brain as a big hard drive where we store and recall data butthis is not the case. In fact every memory changes when we add new experiences and so it is ever changing for every moment in time we experience. Memories are always set in context with one another. This explains why it gets harder to change one’s beliefs and values when we are getting older: the already existing network has to be entirely re-arranged each time and a bigger network requires lots more changes than a small one.
This unique network-prism lets people enhance different aspects of situations so every living being experiences every moment in time from a different perspective. And also this is why every person relates every label to different ideas. 

I do have a problem with excessive labeling as it hardly does any person justice. Given, it is the base of our thinking structure and we rely on it to get through every moment, but in my opinion most people do the labeling in a one-dimensional way and attach too many connotations to a label.

I have always been rejecting general labels to myself. I was in a church youth group, but I wouldn’t see myself as Christian. I sleep with guys but I wouldn’t define myself as gay, I was born in Germany but I don’t like being called German. Why? Because to all these labels, there are strong connotations that are not true for me. Christians must be religious and abide to the word of god…I was never exactly certain what is up there. Gays are …like, you know, a certain way…I am not. Germans are supposed to be tactical, logical and somewhat boring…I might be that to an extent but that is not all I am by far, so in this case, I rather consider myself a citizen of Berlin (which is much more reputable to me) and Europe than of German nationality. I also don’t like beer. ;)

Yet, I still use labels to define people, because as an earthling with a thinking structure similar to yours I have to. Excessive labeling can be very useful if you have to evaluate a situation very fast and it definitely is a method that should be used, but still it is important to keep an open mind and be willing to change your initial evaluation and extend it. In this sense it might be useful to discard the idea of drawers and work with a model that supports clusters that are connected to each other, so we do not just have one or two drawers we put a person into but 6 or 7 clusters that people are related to from different angles to a certain extent that can be extended indefinitely. That sounds complicated but this actually is what our mind works like, all we have to do is realize and use this rather than just draw from the one strongest attribute we relate to a person, which is what we do when we think of drawers. Use your mind's full capability!

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