A friend of mine at work passed out a questionnaire she wrote for a class about language, race, and “social class.” Needless to say, I had fun with it.
One really good part was the question “Does your language reflect your race?”
I wrote: What’s my race? Caucasian? Anglo-German? Human? I don’t know if my language reflects my race, but it does reflect *me.* In the course of a day I might use mostly Standard American English (with a few Ebonic phrases) a few words Spanish or German words, and if the subject warrants, a dash of Sanskrit. What race is that?
Then, it asked me to identify my “social class.” I was genuinely confused. I had hoped notions of “social class” sank with the Titanic, but here I was, being asked to identify my “class.” What the hell does that mean? Is it where I am, socially? Oh, well…
I wrote: “… working middle-income techno-geek nerd-mystic living alone in Ghent.”
My friend ended up putting me into a more conventional category before handing her survey results to her professor!
Now granted, I do like to mess with people when it comes to the assumptions that are usually unquestioned, but identifications are part of, (a big part of) the sickness of the world. We abbreviate reality with concepts, and then further abbreviate them with categories. We identify ourselves with certain groups, and then feel that we are separate from and superior or inferior to those who are not of those groups. We identify ourselves with our past experiences, with our past emotions, with our churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques. We identify ourselves with “races,” nations, sports teams, “social classes” and tribes. Gradually, the maze of labels becomes more “real” to us than the simple reality itself. We even fight, kill, and die for the identifications which have taken over our minds.
After reality is forgotten, it’s essential to recover the truth. I am here. I seem to looking out through eyes, and living in a body with a beating heart, and breathing air. Things that have happened are not me, they merely form a story. Those I love are simply those I love. Many things define my life, but nothing defines me. No label can capture the reality. I am. What am I? In the words of the immortal Popeye, "I yam what I yam." Or as Rumi put it:
Not Christian or Jew or Muslim,
not Hindu, Buddhist, sufi, or zen.
Not any religion or cultural system.
I am not from the East or the West,
not out of the ocean or up from the ground,
not natural or ethereal, not composed of elements at all.
I do not exist, am not an entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any origin story.
My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless.
Neither body or soul.
I belong to the Beloved, have seen the two worlds as one,
and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner, only
that breath-breathing human being.
The Essential Rumi