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What do we actually own?

  • 2 min read
Vienna, Austria
In spring I feel compelled to purge what I own. This year, this impulse was amplified by the passing of a relative. I spent the first months of 2024 sifting through a life’s worth of things. This is what she owned (or was it her late husband?). We kept asking ourselves: who owned what? Did it matter? Over time that question shifted to: what do we really own?
We define ownership by what is ours. Yet, here was a stark example that nothing is ours given enough time. At best we are the temporary custodians of all objects -- including our bodies. How can we truly own something that will be taken away from us? Is there anything that can’t be taken from us? I believe there is.
We can’t truly own things, places, people, even our bodies. What we can own is our relationship to those things.
We can own our care, indifference, kindness, our cruelty. These qualities are unique to us. There is no one like us. No one cares like we do. No one resents like we do. We are singular expressions of different ways of being. These can’t be taken from us, but they can be cultivated by us. It’s our choice.
We can choose to define ourselves through owning external things. However, we risk feeling valueless, because without the house, money, or family that define us, we don’t exist. We often see this play out when celebrities or the wealthy fall from favor.
We can also choose to define ourselves by the qualities we intentionally cultivate. Then we become invaluable, because without us, they don’t exist. This is what happened with my relative. We packed away countless objects we’ll never remember for people we’ll never forget.
So for this week, I submit this for your written reflection: What if you already owned the most valuable things you will ever have? What would they be? What can’t be taken from you? What will you do to take care of them?

1 Response



May 17, 2024

I’m going through something similar right now. This post has helped me to be able to move on to the action that needs to be taken. I’ve read this post several times and each time I take something new away. Thanks for sharing!

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