In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare argues via Juliet that the names of things do not matter. What matters is what those things are, hence the line “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” So even without a layer of language, we could still have the experience of the rose. But what we single out for attention in our consciousness is what we name. That’s why different cultures can have a different number of colours in their rainbows. We see what we name. A good designer knows tons of colours you don’t even know exist. Likewise, your job has probably taught you tons of things that other people wouldn’t know.
People that used to be called rebellious and troublesome are now often called creative and free (of the usual boundaries that society places on more conformist personalities). The word terrorist is pointless. The same with enemy. First off, these all depend on perspective, and secondly they are far too broad as terms for any group.
Groups might share a motivation, but they’re not one entity. They are still individuals, however much that might be suppressed by their role in the group. But you can’t name something and understand it anyway. If you meditate on the subject carefully, you will see that any delineations of difference exist only in our imaginations.
I grew up in western Canada, on the prairies. Probably our most well-known and famous weed is the dandelion. It’s a bright yellow-headed weed that eventually turns into a feathery seeding system. The interesting thing is how it got here. A lot of Ukrainian farmers settled in my part of Canada. And they missed a flower from back home. Something they made wine with, and ate in salads. And it reminded them of home. So they brought some over. And that flower became every other culture’s weed.
Now who is right? Is it a flower? It can be beautiful. Is it a food? It can be eaten. Is it a weed? It can grow anywhere in large numbers. But all of those things, just as Juliet said, simply are. The words are judgments. The words are divisive. They rank. We want and desire flowers but we despise and kill weeds.
Words are powerful things. Just ask any group in the world who faced a genocide based on the word used to define them separately from those around them. Where does that dividing line end? One quarter a race? One eighth? A sixteenth? When is someone not something?
Words are judgments. They are used too often when silence would convey more truth. If you can’t solve your problems with meaningful silence, then you won’t truly solve it with a million conversations. To truly be with someone we must relinquish our dividing, judgmental mind. We must be One with others by quieting and lowering our thought-based judgment-barriers.
Be wary of words. Watch for how lines are drawn and issues and things are divided. Witness the many opportunities people surrender for love or peace, in favour of defending the differences contained only in words. People that care about each other will actually argue over recipes, or sports or TV shows. This is to put way too much stock in what we call things.
We’re not supposed to stamp ourselves with the winningest group of things and experiences. We’re supposed to enjoy being here. So stop dividing and start just being. It feels weird at first. But eventually you get a special kind of quiet inside. And that’s when you feel it: Home.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.