In a previous blog post, I discussed how our mind operates in such a way as to create severe limitations for us on all important areas of our lives. I also tried to discuss the reasons behind this inherently problematic function of our mind.
In the same post, I continued with presenting 10 practical (and readily available for you to use) tips to address our mind’s fundamental shortcomings.
Now, upon popular demand (thank you very much for your sincere interest!), I will proceed, in the coming days and weeks, with publishing 10 different blog posts.
Each one of these 10 posts shall elaborate further on every one of my respective 10 tips.
This time, we focus on the second tip; namely: “Recognize That The Joy Is In The Doing, Not In The Having“.
Who Owns What As A Major Cause Of Human Suffering Throughout History
We start with something that’s very difficult (if not flat-out impossible) for the average human being to accept.
See, most people are so busy accumulating things, both material and immaterial, that the notion of acknowledging that there is nothing – not a single thing – they can possess, own, or appropriate forever is not only totally foreign to them, but usually quite threatening as well.
In fact, it’s not an overstatement to claim that behind every conflict among human beings, both on an individual and a collective level, there’s a “property related” root cause. Come to think of it, throughout human history, most crimes have been committed and most wars have erupted because of some person or some group of people believing either that:
a) they should own more than what they owned at a certain moment; or
b) they have been deprived of what they should rightfully own.
To further substantiate my point, I refer you to this article from the popular and richly informative educational website Owlcation, according to which historically, the two main reasons for war have been economic and territorial gain.
As if that weren’t enough, human nature has gruesomely evolved in this aspect: in relatively recent history, people have committed (previously unimaginable…) atrocities on a mass scale in the name of condemning the notion of property.
Unavoidably, here we must again touch upon the fundamental issue of what we choose to identify ourselves with in our lives.
(In a sense, this series of articles is an invitation to you to let go of identification with anything that is an object of your consciousness. We started by discussing disidentification from thoughts and now we’re expanding to property. Hang on; the ride might be a bit bumpy, but it sure as hell is worth the fare you’re paying)!
There Is Nothing You Can Have Forever
I know and understand that many of you will react at this point.
“So, how do you propose we go about living our lives, Alex?”, you may ask. “Are you inviting us to give away all our stuff and move to a secluded cave, somewhere in a forest or, perhaps, near a treacherous mountaintop?“
Some of you may go even further and poignantly ask: “Would YOU be ready to set the example, Alex, by renouncing all your possessions and hereafter live like a, completely self-sustained, hermit or recluse ? Or are you preaching us about how evil it is to center our lives around our material goods, while at the same time you continue to enjoy the comforts and pleasures of more than a handful of such goods yourself?“.
As always, I hear you. But, please, let me clarify: it’s definitely not my intention to champion a Neo-Luddite movement or cult or make you feel guilty about all suffering under the sun until you write off all of your belongings (preferably to me, like many a “good” cult leader would urge you to do)!
Thus, rest assured: I’m not advocating you assume any radical action of that sort. I’m also not advocating against it, should you really know, beyond any doubt, that this is the path you must take in your life. My guess, though, is that you most likely aren’t ready, suited or meant to do something so edgy.
I know I’m not!
What I’m only asking is that you seriously consider that:
a) the notion of you “owning” something is (maybe an occasionally useful one, yet still…) an illusion; and
b) no matter what you do, what you presently “own” will remain with you only for a limited amount of time.
I’m assuming the second point is by now self-evident, so let me discuss the first one.
In Reality, You Have Nothing
Life loves paradoxes, that much I know.
Here’s one for you: the quality of your relationship with what you label as “your possessions” is optimal as long as you don’t treat them as such.
In other words: treat your possessions as if they weren’t helpless objects at your unquestionable disposal and mercy. Try instead to see yourself as someone that Life has appointed to be their custodian.
Like they were your (foster) children.
Instead of reducing these objects to be no more than mere means to your ends, approach them with care and interest, as if they weren’t chunks of inanimate matter. Assume they’re not as utterly lifeless as conventional knowledge would have you believe.
Because, guess what: there’s a good chance they actually aren’t!
Again, here we don’t have to take recourse to the syllabus of “Human Spirituality 101” or to the animistic beliefs of pretty much every known traditional, “pre-modern” human society or tribe. Just look at what the most hardcore, positive sciences, like Physics or Chemistry, have to say on the matter. The most prominent scientists in these fields acknowledge the underlying unity of all that is, irrespective of whether they label it as “animate” or “inanimate” on the surface.
Now, combine this fact with science’s and philosophy’s historical inability to define what life is.
But even leaving aside any philosophical deliberations on the definition of life and getting really practical (as I love to):
Isn’t your relationship with any object and its actual performance always better when you truly treat it with care, sense its pertinent needs and cater for fulfilling them?
Are you happier to live in your house or flat, and is it serving your basic and advanced accommodation needs better, when you properly and constantly maintain it, as if it were a living organism, or when you neglect it and treat it as a 4-walled soulless container?
Does driving your car feel better when you regularly service it and gently maintain and improve it or when you view it as a bland transportation box with wheels?
In these characteristic examples, the recognition that you don’t (can’t) truly “own” anything, even if it’s legally under your name, is always subtly present. That is: you can’t own anything in the sense that you could do whatever you’d want with it without any consequences on the object itself and your relationship.
It’s rather the other way around: when you get something, you’re expected to work hard for and with it, in order for it to:
a) remain in its ideal condition; and
b) cover your needs exactly as you expect it to.
So, who really “owns” what?
And who’s really “owned” by what?
That brings me to my main point:
All True Accomplishment And Bliss In Life Relates To Doing, Not Having Things
You must see it clearly by now: any fulfilment you’ve ever experienced in your life solely stems from you doing, rather than owning, something.
And the really good news is: what you do is always under your control, as opposed to what you have.
When you finally managed to access the funds which allowed you to purchase that video game or jewel or sweater or electric appliance or whatever else you really were keen on getting, your true and purest joy was first in purchasing it and then using or, better, interacting with it. It was never really in having it.
Yes, you might have felt as if your joy was also due to your knowledge of owning said object, but I hope that after reading all the above it is now evident to you: such sense of “ownership” is nothing more than a strictly mental concept. It’s a figment of your imagination that only becomes (sort of) “real” when you actually do something with your possession!
If you’re away from your apartment, if you cannot see your car right now, if your expensive TV set is in the other room, how do you know for sure that they’re still intact? And if you don’t have an answer to these questions, how can you claim, right now, at this very moment, that these objects still belong to you?
So, one more time: regardless of whether you own it or not, a thing is real for you to the extent and for as long as you interact with it.
By the way, you may also now realize the other, very important, side-effect of relinquishing your purely mental belief of ownership over things and replacing it with the unfiltered joy of actually doing something with, and caring about, them:
The latter is always directly accessible to you.
The former doesn’t exist. Moreover, if you believe in it, you’re bound for perennial unhappiness, as you can never “have” all that you (think you) “want”. You will always want more.
Just examine in full honesty the “story of your life” up to the present moment.
When you do what you know Life demands from you to do in every single moment, you’re in sync both with Life and the source of all true happiness within you. Moreover, looking back, you always realize that Life’s wish was also your true wish and, furthermore, that this is how you eventually get all that you truly need: by surrendering to Life’s command and guidance.
On the other hand, when you cling on what (you think) you “own”, you condemn your life to become a helpless tennis ball in the hands of the two most ruthless expressions of misled human nature: Desire (to own evermore) and Fear (of losing it all).
Until next time…