Does one own one's life, or does one's life own one?
The possessions surround one, little props in one's personal drama, "is this the dagger I see before me?".
Even ideas become property, cherished possessions--the footprint of man painstakingly displayed by the footprint of allosaurus in the creation evidences museum.
I'm never troubled by the notion of private property, or even by the notion that emotional relationships can have a sense of the contractual about them, floating on the wings. The critique with the negative spin to the effect that relationships must involve inevitable inequality and exploitation seems to me to be a misplaced focus rather than a real insight.
I'm more troubled by the idea that I become too settled, too attached, by the wrong sorts of emotional possessions. It's okay to own a car as tranportation, and even as leisure fun. But when a car become part of one's personal definition, then things are out of hand.
I don't mean, of course, a literal home that can be torched in a fire.
I certainly don't mean to disparage that sense of home that I get from family and routine. I'd rather celebrate those things.
I mean instead the deeds of trust I've granted to complacency and to
ennui. I mean the chattel mortgage (a much better expression than the more modern "security interest") I've transferred in disregard of possibility.
The Sunday paper featured more articles about more mansion-dwelling evangelists who tell people to charge up their credit cards, because God will provide. Even likable evangelists telling people on disability about a "prosperity gospel" that will "reward" their spendthrift donations cause me grave disquiet.
I don't mind at all the folks who say "imagine the good, and it may come true". But when it moves to "send me 10 dollars, and you'll be repaid", I get annoyed.
I believe that things have costs and that you have to work to make things work. I don't believe in cutting taxes during wartime. I don't believe that you achieve difficult things without pain.
But my deep inner sense of the virtue of thrift worries me sometimes.
I don't want to have a miserliness of spirit that makes me miss the possible good that can be done in any situation.
I don't want to be so chained to my life that I can't work to make things a bit better. I want to live as if I choose the grain-treading yoke rather than Marley's chains.
It's easy to draw easy conclusions from obvious wrong. I'd love to see a televangelist say "Save your money! Give ten percent of it to the poor or to your local church! Keep your living expenses down, and save money from the rest of it! I have enough money to last a lifetime! Don't, I repeat, don't, send money to this house of fraud!".
I read that when Jim Bakker showed up for sentencing, devout supporters, unwilling to concede his frauds despite an abundant proof at trial, still spoke up in his behalf. Beat me, hit me, take my money, but don't shake my faith in the life I've led. I love my state of deception so much I'll still call it grace.
But in the gray areas I find that I need the most work in learning the lessons. Sometimes the tigers aren't paper. Sometimes they're real dilemmae.
It's a tricky thing--cutting onself enough slack that the rope won't strangle, and yet tightening the rope to the plow.
They say that people gave names to all the animals. But is a "tiger" a "tiger" because you name her one? I think it's possible to shake off some names, and yet retain the names that make sense and work.
I'm out to name my possessions, and perhaps yard sale off a few. When I'm done, I will have all the ones that matter, and perhaps a little less clutter inside.
It's not that I mind the things, really. I just wonder how much more I could do with a little internal space.