Friday, June 27, 2008

labels

I followed my daughter down to her shift at that “other” coffee company this morning. Life has kept me off schedule this week, way off in fact. It’s usually the other end of the week that I’m writing this blog. I’m okay with it which is a sign of growth for me. I’m at the “other” place staring at the label on my grande’ drip. It tells me that the cup I’ve just invested in is 100 percent compostable. This cup is one of the main reasons that I changed back to Starbucks in the first place. Well, actually not this one, but the original one that I bought way back when, only to discover that compostable meant that it would begin to become compost even before I reached my table to enjoy it. I’m not exaggerating. It began to disintegrate and leak profusely even as I was sitting down. Now I’m as “green” friendly as the next guy here in the Northwest, but for someone as cheap as I am, trying to stretch a cup of coffee over a 2 hour time span, this was very alarming. I think that they’ve worked a bit to improve it a bit since then. The half life of a cup is now up to about 45 minutes. Still the label brings back bad dripping memories.
That’s the way it is with labels isn’t it. Someone or something puts a label on, thinking it’s the answer to all of life’s difficulties, only to discover that the label may create even more difficulty. Take for example, a certain pizza empire that I used to deliver for. It’s label said “30 minutes or less”. This seemed to be an answer for the impatience of the American consumer. What it said to others who may have actually appreciated a quality pizza was that speed trumps taste. I used to see a sign in my previous place of residence that read “free manure”. That must have been good news to some, but to my way of thinking, coming from a fairly public profession, I had more than my share dumped at my doorstep every week. I certainly didn’t need to stop and pick more up.
Labels are a professional hazard for me in my role as a pastoral artist. It’s the main reason I came up with the term “pastoral artist” in the first place. That’s correct, lest you see the term somewhere else in a book selling millions, I came up with the designation first. In fact I’m the only one in existence as far as I know. A friend asked me a while back, “What the H… is a pastoral artist? I really have no idea. I made it up. It has something to do with me being a pastor focused around the creative ability of the Creator and those He created. I see it as my role to reconnect the Creator with everything and everyone created. Kind of a broad job description, I’ll admit. I came up with it because the label “pastor”, while well intentioned to some, is a barrier to many, not unlike “compostable cups”. I don’t even like many who wear the label. I respect them, I just don’t like them….much….but to be fair, they wouldn’t appreciate me much either.
I have attached “artist” to pastor because, first of all, I am one….when I get the chance. Secondly, it’s leveling. While pastor says one thing to people, artist says the opposite. When one thinks artist, it’s not generally in the context of middle class, conservative haircut, SUV driving, Republican, and angry. I am none of those for the most part, but yet I could be if I wanted to be. No two artists are the same, nor is their art. You just get to stand back and objectively utter “hmmmmmmmm”. It’s a bit more liberating.
Labels aren’t generally helpful. I still struggle not being bound to them. I’d rather live life according to the beliefs that I own and let that be reflected in my actions. I’d rather have conversations with people and get to know them beyond their fabricated images. Everyone has worth and value that tends to be obscured by an inaccurate message. The reality is, the coffee at this “other” place, never changed, and improvements have even been made to the cup. I’m just having a hard time with the label.