defining language to conquer labels

defining language to conquer labels
by jennifer kiley

i’ve been having a debate on labels for a long time. don’t like them when they are derogatory. but when one uses them in writing are they still labels or are they words you use that people are familiar with and you are trying to reclaim their value and to redefine their core meaning in a positive way.?

i am bipolar or i have bipolar.

i am a lesbian or i am woman identified.

i am a writer or i am an author or i am both.

when does one change from being a writer to an author?

does it happen once you are published?

or are you always both because if you keep writing than you may have something that is published and writing that is in process. and you may never be published now, in your life time or ever. does that stop you from being identified as a writer? is the word writer a “label?” or is writer just a way of expressing part of who you are so that you and others can understand something that may be important to you. or it is just a way of identifying yourself or the way others identify themselves. if you write poetry, are you not a poet? do you think it is important that someone besides yourself knows that?

it is a driving force in our society to have at least some sort of identity or you might feel lost. if you have nothing to hold onto that is you, do you stop existing? is that why some people “lose their minds?” what exactly does it mean to “lose your mind?” it seems rather careless. that is something oscar wilde would say. i think i went through a phase in my late teens that somehow i was going to “lose my mind.” where i got that idea, i don’t remember. except that i was fascinated with psychology from the time i first discovered it. understanding the mind. when i would get stoned on pot, i would want to analyze the experience of getting high, i had and still do have a strong need to understand everything.

back to identities: when does one have the right to define their identity with words that give their life meaning and a way to define who they are? is it for themselves to place the word artist into thier verbal or written bio or must the outside world or culture give them the definition of their life’s existence? the acceptance of the world, is that what is needed to feel you really exist? when we are kids, many of us have a wish to be famous. is that about immortality? it doesn’t seem to make the really talented geniuses of the world terribly happy about fame. i think it’s more about leaving your mark, making a difference, helping to change the world in some way that improves it and that has a postive effect.

i have a confession. there is something that bothers me, i feel very wrong about people who become famous because they are famous for doing absolutely nothing. they just happen to be on a reality show. and i am not talking about shows that support talent. they are famous for living in front of a camera. what is that all about? the film “The Truman Show” showed how phony that really was. i don’t get why anyone watches these shows.

digressing is something i am quite good at. my next question is where does meaning come from afterall?

there are books written about probably everything that exists in the human universe. but then there is always a place for different interpretations of any thought or theory that exists or that hasn’t been hatched out yet.

is everything known already but just impossble for any human mind to perceive in an open consciousness? the buried unconscious or subliminal subconscious or vivid dreams that reveal symbols to the hidden part of the infinite universes. we just need to remember. maybe we all have temporary amnesia about all that has been revealed to us.

death is such a secret. why? what would be so wrong in letting us all in on the (i wanted to say “joke” but that would be rude) secret? are the athiests right? my feeling is no one really knows the truth, at least not the full truth. it’s been divided up and administered to various gate keepers or secret keepers. that way no one can tell the whole story. we each have to tell our own part of it.

is that what writers do?

is that what artists do?

is that what musicians do?

is that what poets do?

does everyone play a role in holding onto the secrets of the infinite?

now i am going to be facetious. do politicians have any clues to the meaning of life, death, the hereafter or were they sent down here to play chess with the lives of all living things? some i feel are sincere but most i am not sure that i trust their motives. what is their real purpose?

i once asked myself, more than once, does one need meaning and purpose to live out a contented or happy life?

my life is driven by the force, but once i was under the spell of the protestant ethic. work. work. work. it didn’t matter that you enjoyed it. what mattered is that you just did it. shut up and were satisfied. happiness didn’t matter.

when i speak of the force, star wars comes to mind, but it isn’t that force necessarily that i am referring to and yet it might be. i am talking about being connected to the energies of the multi-verse with it’s 11 dimensions. infinity upon infinity upon infinity and so on. we always think that we are the only planet with a life force of humans and other living things. how arrogant are we? this vastness of space that goes on forever. think about the possiility that there are other universes and there are other life forms who may or may not think about the philosophers’ questions of life and death and infinity. our brains cannot consciously perceive the infinite. we may try but our brains might explode if we actually succeeded.

so back to labels. i like to know who i am, to understand the inner workings of my being. i use words through writing and talking to express that meaning. to go beyond myself, i want to understand the basic meanings of life. love is important to me. caring for other creatures, human and animals are important to me. feeling excitement and exhilaration when something special effects my life or the lives of others in my world. my world may start with those i am close to personally but it extends to all people. in a symbolic way, i care that anyone is not loved, is suffering, is starving, have no shelter, are being harmed in any way. i don’t understand why there exists in the world so much hatred. i know why there is so much animosiy and hatred but why people want or do feel this way needs to be corrected and turned into peaceful coexistance. whether that will ever be possible, i cannot say. it isn’t about to happen in the near or far off future and i am an optimist.

now is it wrong or just part of using language when we give what we are writing about words that give the appearance of what some perceive as labels? i think we need to use whatever words are within our grasp to tell our stories. you can’t stop using the word bully because we don’t like what it stands for and means. when i use the word it is understood. so back to the beginning, it is when words are used in a derogatory manner that turn them into labels that are negative or bad. but when i am telling you the truth about someone being a bully, the word is being used to express meaningful communications.

this discussion has only just begun. words are important. if we didn’t have them it would make it extremely difficult to communicate. definitions are also important. that is what creates the understanding between people.

one last point: it is extremely important for people to reclaim words that have been distorted and used as slanderous and to humiliate. we need to instill the power back into the words that were usurped and to give them there true meaning and remove the stigma that ignorance has placed on them. the list is long and the reclamation is a gradual process. but we need to be brave and say the words out loud until we can shout them out until all the world can hear them.

3 thoughts on “defining language to conquer labels

  1. First of all, using the term “I am” defines you as one thing or another. Especially when it comes to mental illness. I have had to train myself (and i still slip) to say that I “have” bipolar, not that I “am” bipolar because I am not the disorder. The disorder is just one part of who I am. Secondly, I see nothing wrong with saying I am a lesbian. Sexual orientation is a defining characteristic of who someone really is. Saying you are “woman identified” is just politically correct BS, and I have yet to meet a lesbian who does not call herself a lesbian. As far as when someone becomes an author, I think it happens the minute that someone reads what you have written, even a blog, and has a reaction to it. I do not think you can separate writer from author. Maybe a writer keeps journals that no one reads, and an author just puts it out there for the world to like or dislike.

    I have a confession as well. I really do not understand the phenomena of people being famous because they are rich. Case in point, after the Kardashian’s, where did Paris Hilton go? Clearly they contribute very little that is truly meaningful to the world, Their whole world is a superficial whirl wind of parties, being “seen” with the “right” people, but what so they really contribute aside from occaisonal (?) entertainment for the proletariat.

    When you speak of the “force” you feel drives you, i do not believe it is the Protestant work ethic that can make you happy. I was once also a member of the workforce, and hope to be again, but in a more positive and helping way, I want to counsel “at risk” youth so they do not follow the same path I took which ruined a lot of my dreams (long story). I practice Nichiren Buddhism, and nothing makes me happier than chanting and saying my prayers both alone and with groups. It lines me up with the universe and changes the way I respond to my world. I am a District leader of a smallish group of Buddhists and I have one Korean member who has practiced for 37 years, and she tells me all the time, “When I first meet you, you so sad looking. Now you are all bright and shiny, and you are happy.” And she is right. Taking responsibility for my own actions and resulting causes has really made me think hard about that “God” that is so prevalent. God is not going to help me solve a problem, I am the only one that can choose what to do, and if it turns out badly, so be it. My Buddhist sect is about chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo (Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Universe through the simultaneity of cause and effect through the use of sound or the vibration you create when you chant). Renge is Japanese for Lotus Flower. They grow in the mud and emerge beautiful, radiant flowers. They also bloom and seed at the same time. It is kind of like we live in this world where the majority of significant decisions are out of hands, but out of this world we can become happy people through determination, compassion, humanitarianism, and respect for all. If we can embrace these concepts in our lives, then we can become happy, productive beings. That’s the short version. The long version would take many lifetimes to explain and even learn 🙂 Of course there are many spiritual beliefs out there. I myself used to be a Wiccan. And, yes, our brains will explode if we try to contemplate the infinite. I have tried, and it hurt.

    I think that writers, painters, artists, poets, and all of the “artistic” endeavors of humankind is an attempt to explore the infinite, that which lasts or goes on forever. Look at some of the 7 wonders of the modern world. That was humankind saying “Hey, we were here, and this is what we did, this was our culture, and this was our civilization.” but, i do not think that only artists explore the infinite. You do the same thing when you contemplate yourself and who you are and where you fit in society. The human brain itself is infinite.

    Anyway, one last thing. Yes, I think politicians have no sense of human life, and the cost of losing it. Your reference to chess reminded me of a song that was written in 1969 by Black Sabbath called “War Pigs.” One of the verses of the song refers to the people in power treating people just like pawns in chess, and not going out to fight because they can get the poor to do that for them. That song was written during the height of the Viet Nam war (police action), and every time I hear it, I am amazed that a 43 year old song by a then fledgling heavy metal band is still completely apropos to the world we live in.

    On that note, i have left you a novella of a comment, but there was a lot of stuff to cover 🙂

    Jennifer (songtothesirens)


  2. Excellent post, good points. I guess my problem with psychiatric labels is that they are arbitrary, inaccurate and stigmatizing. They are imposed from the outside with the intent to define your inner experience and control your behavior. There is a whole branch of philosophy/linguistics that deals with this topic, that delves into the layers of how we use words. The important thing is to define yourself. That’s your power.


    • i agree about labels. in fact, it has been our correspondence that prompted me to eventually write this post. i’ve only just begun. going to follow it up with several posts on the dsm5 & how ridiculous it is going to make of diagnoses. it will make everyone in the US have a mental disorder. i discovered an article in the psychiatric times, written by a psychiatrist in 2010, where he goes into detail on the points where he feels the dsm5 is terribly flawed. my s/o and i were going through his points one by one, debating there validity. it was too funny for words in some instances. and ridiculous in others. those posts will be in the near future. i’ve copied material from the dsm5 and copied the psychiatric times article. i just need to do further investigating. on the subject of linguistics, that is a fascinating subject to me. i like the preciseness of the words i use when i am writing. philosophy was my second favorite subject in college. debating w/ my s/o is a common accurance. i get into semantics and accuracy all the time. if you have any suggestions on studying this subject let me know. it does fascinate me. thanks for reading my post. as i said you were one of my motivations for writing it. jennifer


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