You can say that you own something, but, it will end up owning you instead. I was a high school sophomore when I first heard something to that effect. Many years earlier, during a discussion about “deep matters”, my best friend claimed that we really cannot own anything because God owns everything.
These memories sometimes come to mind when I see a sales receipt, bill of sale, deed, or less frequently, when I buy something. The last time I pondered the sayings was after I read an economic report about 0.1-percent being worth as much as the bottom 90-percent combined. Aside from the usual discussions about the ever widening income gap in America and elsewhere, I wonder what goes on in the minds of extremely wealthy people. Why are they compelled to hoard so much? How do they justify their greed?
I don’t know anyone who belongs to the 0.1-percent nor even the 1-percent, so I can only guess that they suffer from some sort of psychological disorder. As much as I can, I feel a little bit of pity towards them. There must be a reason they feel compelled to acquire more and more wealth. Do they feel honest empathy and compassion in the face of extreme poverty and suffering in much of the world? Aside from highly publicized charity contributions, what do these people contribute to the world? There might be something deeply tragic and destructive going on in their minds? I puzzle over their callousness, but I don’t lose any sleep over their fate.
Then I come across today’s commemoration, All Is Ours Day. I wonder if any of the 1-percent know about it. If they do, how do they interpret its meaning? Do they feel a deep connection to the world, and everything in it aside from the desire to own everything? Do they feel alienated from the rest of us? Do they understand that their avarice causes more alienation and suffering for them? Again, as much as it is possible for me to try and understand them, I don’t have the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with any of those people.
All Is Ours Day. This is a puzzling name for a holiday, isn’t it? How do we construe the meaning of such a thing? I wish I knew who came up with this commemoration so I could know what she or he had in mind. Perhaps they left it open-ended and ambiguous on purpose.
Even though I’m not conventionally religious, I still ponder the saying about God owning everything so we cannot really own anything. Whether or not one believes in a god, this assertion is really quite profound. The aboriginal American people famously taught that it’s absurd for anyone to own any part of Mother Earth.
Certainly we must be practical about material goods. There are volumes of laws regarding the ownership and transfer of real property. Whether we own or rent, we want to feel secure about our homes. There are stringent regulations regarding our personal property, too. We don’t want our cars or possessions stolen from us. Most of us worked very hard to acquire these things.
On a different, practical level, the Amerindians are correct. None of us has the right to own this planet. The Earth already owns us. Even if we lay claim to pieces of the planet, we must ultimately surrender those claims at the time that Mother Nature reclaims our bodies at the end of our lives.
If I post a “No Trespassing” sign I expect other people to respect my wishes. However, if I call the police to report that squirrels, rabbits, and birds are trespassing upon my property, I will be regarded as some sort of kook. Likewise, I cannot legally own the little blue jay who builds her nest in the tree on my yard, yet she has claimed that place as hers to use as she wishes.
As I ponder the possible meaning of All Is Ours Day, I think of the resources that we must have for our ultimate survival. There is the air we breathe and the water we all must have. The atmosphere circulates and enables chemical cycles that enable all life to exist. Air and water circulate across personal boundaries and international borders. It is mean spirited and inhumane to lay claim to individual ownership of the air and water. It behooves us to ensure that the air and water remain unpolluted, because such resources are shared by every person, animal, and plant on Earth.
In a similar measure, nobody can really own the mineral wealth of the land. Certainly individuals and corporations can extract the resources from the common property that an entire nation claims. The nation and its people should expect a share of the wealth and bounty that is extracted from their shared claim.
These issues have been debated time and time again. I doubt whether they will be definitively decided upon anytime soon.
The point is that nature and its treasures are here for all of us to share. We have been granted stewardship of the Earth. We have a responsibility to do our best to care for it, then pass that legacy on to the next generations.
We also share the intangibles of the Universe. Beauty, harmony, peace, love, happiness, and fellowship. There is no way to place a price on, nor individually own these things.
These are more blessings just as our lives are blessings. Make some quiet time and go outdoors for awhile. Just silently look at, listen to, and smell your surroundings. As far as we can perceive, all of it is shared. We can fully understand, then, that All Is Ours.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this ancient Buddhist saying: “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”