Alethea & Athena (double_dear) wrote,
Alethea & Athena

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I'm trying not to neglect LiveJournal on weekends just because it's the weekend, but it's hard because on Sundays I don't always have anything new to talk about. But there was a topic I thought I should talk about a long long long time ago, so maybe I'll talk about that now!

See, once upon a time, somebody posted on Facebook a long analogy about how someone finally figured out that the reason they didn't fit in with all their bird friends is that they were a penguin! It was a pretty good analogy, about how of course her needs were different because she was a different kind of bird (although when Athena and I read long things about that kind of thing, we're always like, "Yeah, duh; why did it take you so long to figure it out and why do you have to spend so much time spelling it out to us?"), so even though we had a bad attitude toward it, we pretty much agreed with it until it got to the end, where it was like, "And that's why I think labels are so important. You have to have the right label so you and everyone else know how to interact with you properly." I'm paraphrasing, because we read this a relatively long time ago, but at that point we were like, "Okay, you lost me."

Because here's the thing. First of all, "bird" is a label. All of the insecurities and incongruities and everything only arose because people were defining "bird" more narrowly than it really is defined. A bird is a warm-blooded animal that has feathers and wings. That's it. Just because people are assuming that it means "that can fly," "that lives in trees," "that doesn't swim," doesn't mean the label actually means that.

Second of all, the label "penguin" can be divided into about a bazillion subdivisions as well. Some penguins live in cold temperatures, some don't. Some hop rocks. Some have a chinstrap. Watch certain episodes of Polar Bear's Cafe, and you will learn that there are all kinds of different penguins, to the point where the penguins in the series consider a trading card series to raise awareness. A trading card series--that's how many different kinds of penguins there are. So you solved this one penguin's problem of not fitting in with the sparrows because you labeled her as a penguin, but now what about the penguins that don't fit society's common definition of penguin?

Let's say people hear "penguin" and automatically picture an emperor penguin. Now all the penguins feel like that's what they have to conform to, and all the rockhopper penguins are now deeply ashamed of their rockstar hair. When you start playing the label game, you start an endless cycle of insecurity. Because even among rockhopper penguins, you're going to find different personalities with different needs.

So I don't think the problem can be solved with more labels. I think the problem is labels, because what a label ultimately becomes is a cognitive shortcut. People start to think that they know a thing or two about this label, so everyone who has that label must be like such-and-such. But really the only label that someone can always perfectly fit all the criteria for is "individual." Why? Because by definition, "individual" means "not considered as part of a group." I mean, you can't even accurately define the individual Nibley twins as "Nibley twins," because, and I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but we do have differences. And you know what? We don't feel guilty when we're not the same at something.

So long story short, we're all individuals who have different needs and like to do different things, and that's okay. And you don't have to put a name on it.

Today I'm thankful for having lots of yummy things to look forward to eating, being my own unique individual self, the penguins in Polar Bear's Cafe, getting to read manga earlier, and having a lovely sacrament meeting at church today.
Tags: thinking

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