Saturday, May 07, 2005

Careful: icy walk

Ever notice how people walk on ice?

Some people slide their feet as if on skates. Some people tip toe across as if afraid to wake up the ice demons that pitch you down. Some people walk forward unafraid to fall the way they walk everywhere else. Some people avoid the ice, walking into the street or onto the snow-covered ground, anywhere but the ice because there is no guarantee they will not fall or make a fool of themselves. And some people carefully watch where they place their feet before taking a step.

How we walk on ice is how we walk through life. Want to know someone? Watch them walk on ice.

A group I belong to has been building to a huge explosion but once again the leader (although the person claims they didn't want to be the leader while they remind everyone who started the group) has pulled the fat out of the fire by redistributing labels and proudly announcing their new found path in life. By casting off the original label and using another label everything has been deemed changed. It's just another label.

We all are most comfortable when we are able to put a name to everything, paste on a label. It's how we communicate. However, this practice leads us to believe that we must label everything. Ever see someone who has a new label maker? Suddenly everything gets a brand new label. It's fun and there are lots of colors to choose among, colors that will match the decor. Then the labels get old. The edges pull away, creasing the neat label, curling up and getting ratty and dirty. Pull off the label and the stickum is left to gather lint, dust, dirt and everything in between. Some people scrub the stickum off and place a new label. Some let it get dirty and scrabby and leave it even when the label is hanging by a sticky thread. Some clean off the surface and leave it bare, the label making mania either too much effort or something that has run its course. It's like walking on ice.

For a long time I have wondered if I should continue with the group. I can still see the people and spend time with them. I don't need a label or a group to do that. I might even walk away and continue as I have always done: without labels, without names, without need for either. And yet watching these people walking on the ice is fascinating. Maybe it's the need in me to get out the microscope and examine the bugs up close, like an amateur psychologist or sociologist or anthropologist. In many ways I am all three and none of them. I really don't care for labels.

I admire anyone who reinvents himself, adapts to the prevailing environment. I have less admiration for anyone who controls others by changing the labels without changing who they really are. It's like putting up a sign near the icy walk that says glass or shiny paint. It's still ice. Take a few steps on the ice and you'll know the truth, but it's too late because you're already sliding and falling.

No matter what the sign says, it's an icy walk.

No comments: