Monday, June 11, 2007


I've recently begun to consider that perhaps self-labelling even with ostensibly "good" characteristics may lead me away from clear seeing.

Recently, this issue arose as I reflected on a brief discussion I'd had with one of my yoga students at the end of a class just before Memorial Day. She'd asked if I had plans for the Memorial Day weekend, and I responded that we'd probably put together a barbecue of some kind. She asked what we'd be barbecuing, and I responded "I'm a vegetarian, so green stuff, plus some bratwursts for my kids."

So what was the issue? It's the effect of applying that label, "vegetarian," even though I tend to think of it as either neutral or slightly a good thing. I'm sure that my yoga student just chalked it up to one more way that her yoga teacher is weird, so it isn't the inter-personal effect of the label that I was considering at lunch. It is the effect that applying the label to myself has.

I've begun to think that telling myself that "I'm Christ" produces as strong a tendency toward delusion as telling myself that "I'm Satan" -- not because either characterization is inaccurate when applied to actions, but because those actions (and their respective labels) definitionally apply to something past, rather than something present.

I am not a good person because I did something good yesterday. I am not a bad person because I did something bad yesterday. I am simply a person who has had the experience (and who therefore has been shaped by the experience) of doing something good or bad yesterday.

So back to lunch: is being a "vegetarian" something good? I suppose it can be; but self-notions of "I'm a vegetarian" tend to reinforce the idea that what I have done yesterday and last month and last year should somehow be accounted as good in this instant, when what matters in this instant is whether I choose to eat meat today at lunch -- not what I did yesterday, nor what I may do tomorrow.

(Of course, it's thought-processes like this that explain why I find myself eating lunch alone a fair amount )