In this chapter, Elnes asks us to consider how processes of life can work to erode our sense of self, interaction with processes (rather than people). A process pins labels on people. Elnes uses the example of a process that makes a new kind of macaroni & cheese. In evaluating the product, the tasters are divided into groups such as cheese-lovers, pasta-lovers etc. So when the results of the study are evaluated, the individuality of the tasters is diluted. The person-ness goes away and they are reduced to the label assigned to them by the process. Elnes writes, “If you live an unreflective life, allowing these forces to shape you unawares, they will take away your name and give you a number.”
We can strive to be more mindful of the ways our society categorizes people, and assigns labels. What labels do you assign to others? What labels are assigned to you?
How do labels divide & distance people from one another? How do labels cultivate mediocrity & prevent people from realizing their true potential?
When we are more mindful of the effect processes & labeling have on the relationships we enjoy, then our companionship with others on the path in the Dark Wood will be less encumbered. On your journey, Elnes advises, it is best to have the companionship of a few key characters who, like you, have their eyes and ears open to a reflective and spiritually engaged existence.
First, Elnes suggests we travel with a mentor, a wise person who you can consult with along the way, whether or not they are actually with you all of the time. Second, a small group of close friends who you meet with on a fairly regular basis. A group with which you can confide & compare notes. Third, a small group of folks with serious faith, not necessarily from the same faith tradition as you. The group will be organized around the principal of “the three great loves: love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self.”
Have you travelled the Dark Wood alone? How was that more or less difficult than traveling with others?
Can you identify people in your life who you travel with today? Do you feel you need more or less assistance from people than you receive? Are you in need of some support in one or more of the three areas outlined by Elnes?