Labels vs. Uniqueness

I went to a very posh school in my city, quite conservative, but in my teenage years I started to be more rebellious. I felt I was different than the others, that I had something to say and stand up for, but I didn’t know what it was yet.

Two years ago I finally finished my first feature documentary film WITHIN THE FLOW OF LIFE (original German title: IM FLUSS DES LEBENS). Sending the film to an undefined number of festivals I always found myself confronted with the same dilemma: what category does the film fit in? In the end: I settled with „ecological“ most of the times, even though it’s about human rights, nature as a whole, the economy, religion, politics, and the base of it all is spirituality. You could call it ethics as well, but this is exactly where everyone has a different concept.

1. ecological: I never considered myself to be „eco“, but labeling the film as such made it highly popular with environmental festivals and I have an obvious target group. What does that word mean though? It’s certainly different than in the 80ies, where green movements in Europe were spreading out, but it had and still has to a certain extent that dusty image of people in Birkenstock sandals with greasy hair and munching on nuts all day. That’s certainly not me. I do, however, loooooooove nature.

photo-credit: Jorge Riveros-Cayo
photo-credit: Jorge Riveros-Cayo

How couldn’t I. A human being is part of nature, and it’s incredible how simple life can get when I start the day taking 5 barefeet minutes walking across the wet grass. Having returned to the city I cannot do that any more, but I can still smell the change of seasons as soon as I get near a tree. Being out in nature helps me feel whole That actually leads right to:

2. spiritual: you don’t need to meditate 3 hours a day to be a spiritual person. For me it is listening to that inner voice or to signs that my body gives me (if I don’t listen early enough: pain) and realizing that there is an incredible force behind EVERYTHING in life. I do consider myself a spiritual person and have my own way of practicing it, allowing for that to change.

3. ethics: that is just way too intellectual! It’s what we THINK is right, judging other ideas and sometimes just an excuse if you don’t want to call it religion (often for political reasons) but you actually stay in the same narrow concepts with your arguments.

I want to be unique. I am unique. Such as everyone is unique. I know that putting labels on things sometimes make it easier to get a fair idea, but often it stays just there: superficial. What does it say about who I am if you say: she is eco, or she is spiritual, or she dedicates herself to ethics, human rights issues… it creates images in your mind, scenes you put me in, where I act a certain way, before you actually have spoken one word to me. The only label I would proudly put on myself is „woman“, but again, thinking about that, it also makes your imagination run wild… What kind of woman? Feminist? What’s a feminist to you?…

So what now? Get rid of words we use to describe people? I don’t think we have to go that far. My wish is for all of us (including me!) to let room and not narrow the idea of a person down to very tight concepts of those words, immediately judging and by that maybe missing on a very special encounter. Communicating via social media that might be an even bigger challenge, but let’s give it a try!