Can you truly own anything? You can’t take it with you…
Our modern economy is based on the illusion of ownership. You can “own” clothing, artwork, electronics, a car, a house, the land itself. Or so we say. Or so we more or less mutually agree. Of course, the reality is that the bank still owns my house and my car, and if I don’t pay them for it, they will take them away. I suppose I “own” my clothing, furnishings, various appliances, and the food in my refrigerator. But even these things come from the earth, and one day they will return to the earth in some circuitous fashion. The shirt I wear today may have a number of “owners” before it takes another form.
I’ve written a lot about freedom lately, and it seems to me that you cannot own anything and be free. That is the reason, presumably, that so many of the most famous mystics and spiritualists owned practically nothing. For them, it was a simple shift in consciousness. Their needs were met, and they didn’t require anything else to fill them. There was no void inside to fill. They had found their own, divine internal well. What did they need with “stuff?”
Of course, I am writing this on a computer that I “own,” I have more than one set of clothes, I pay a mortgage, I drive a car, and I have furnishings that I’m fond of. I don’t have a problem with this, because I believe that Spirit is infinitely abundant, that I deserve to be infinitely abundant, and that it’s perfectly okay for me to be comfortable. Given that, how can I be free if possess all of this?
A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.
~ George Carlin
Possession, ownership, this is all a mindset. Very wealthy people can afford to have their basic needs met, and then some. No doubt, some wealthy people live extremely lavish lifestyles. There is nothing inherently wrong with living well, but again, the mindset is what matters. If you own several estates filled with stuff, you have to manage it all. More often, it probably manages you. There can be a certain paranoia to owning lots of stuff, and the majority of our laws are written for the purpose of protecting one person’s stuff from other people. The more stuff you have, the more likely you are to fear that someone, somewhere, is going to take it away from you. And that is a prison of sorts.Hoarding is an extreme expression of possession and ownership. Hoarders become so emotionally attached to their stuff that they can’t allow any of it to leave them, including their trash. They literally become imprisoned by their stuff, stacked to the ceiling around them. Sometimes, their stuff kills them when a fire starts, and help cannot get to them through their wall of stuff. There’s a lesson there.
No one can possess the land, yet we have created the illusion of land ownership. How can anyone own the land? The land belongs to all life. It belongs to Earth herself. It is no one’s to own. How can anyone own the oil or the minerals? No one can, yet, amazingly, we have allowed that illusion to persist. And we have created a dependence upon these things that is worse than any drug. Indeed, this addiction, if untreated, will kill life as we know it. Addicts are not free…So, what’s a person to do? Have no possessions? Asceticism is attractive, in its way, but all too often it becomes an excuse for self-punishment, and that’s not helpful.
The key, I believe, is in your mindset. Shift your thinking over. Recognize that ownership is an illusion, that property is an illusion. Be abundant and have what you need, even what you like, and be happy—but know in your heart that you are simply borrowing these things. Treat them as sacred gifts. Be thankful for all of them, and enjoy them. But lose your attachment to them. Know that they may break or leave you eventually. If this happens, let them go, with your blessing. If something leaves you, it’s simply making room for something else.
It is also certainly helpful to simplify your stuff. If your garage is so full of stuff that you can’t park your car in it, then it’s time to let something go. If you haven’t used something in three years, let it go. If you don’t absolutely love it, then let it go. Reducing how much stuff you have is actually quite freeing. “Stuff” can literally weigh you down.
Unfortunately, our economic system has become dependent on us having lots of “stuff,” and the drumbeat to buy, buy, buy is steady and consistent. And you will certainly still need things. Anyone with kids certainly will need to do their share of shopping. But you can be conscious while you do it. You can be aware. You can ask yourself questions like, “But do I really need this? Do I really even like this?”
I really like the Story of Stuff Project, which is helping to educate people about where your stuff is coming from and how it affects the planet. I like anything that helps you make informed decisions, so if you feel so inclined, check them out. But the most important thing is to shift your thinking, just that little bit. The rest will take care of itself.