Do we really own anything, or are we just custodians?
Did you ever ponder that everything you own will belong to someone else when we say goodbye to this world? Everything. So your thoughts, your assets and the smallest little detail of your life are gone. Hindu leader Dada Vaswani put it this way: “If you have everything the world can give—pleasure, possessions, power—but lack peace of mind, you can never be happy.” Or, as someone else once said, “Rich people are just poor people with money”. No amount of wealth or status that we acquire in this world can give us inner peace, we are only custodians for someone else. So to get a love for “Things” is a wasted effort, so why not share it while you are in control? You only get one shot at this “thing” called life. It is not a rehearsal nor will it be re-run. You can live it for yourself, or you can live it by serving, sharing and caring for others. The surest way for happiness and fulfillment is to be generous and have gratitude.
Ownership also involves life’s intangibles: like your reputation, status, position, knowledge, skills, achievements, health, love, or family, but we forfeit all of these at the end of life. How can you discover your purpose in life, and experience the full life that God wants you to have that will bring contentment and happiness? All that you have – your friends, your talents, your resources, your opportunities — are received from the Almighty, and to fully appreciate their importance must be to acknowledge that Presence in our lives. They can be snatched in a moment, and are. So it behoves us to be concerned with how we use these blessings to extend the power of the Almighty to others. We are not an island, there are no one-man shows, we are all dependent on others from before birth until death.
When you realise that life is always on borrowed time rather than something that you control, it will change the way you think and live. No personal achievement will matter, once you are dead. The only thing that will live on after death will be the impact on the people that are still alive. And we all hope that our impact will be positive and that we will leave a legacy of love and service.
Everything is temporary in this world, nothing is everlasting. We came into this world with nothing, and we will leave it with nothing. So all the gathering of wealth and possessions will be left behind to others, to do as they see fit until their own time comes. These thoughts should stop you in your tracks if you hold on unjustly to anything in life that you had the loan of. If you examine all the conflicts and wars around the world, what is at their core? Humans killing and maiming other humans both young and old, for what reason? Those that inflict unquantifiable grief and pain for gain or perceived ownership, that will down the road, in a blink of an eye, has to be left behind, is incomprehensible and unfathomable. The cause of many conflicts, both personally and in the world at large, and the notion that someone owns something that they think they should have is a myth.
When we decide and recognise that we own nothing, we can then enjoy great pleasure from the sharing of all that we have for now. This includes our possessions, our talents and everything we have just the loan of. We can let go of the fear of loss. We can let go of anger, resentments, and bitterness and simply share and care. We can let go of the illusion of ownership because it is unrealistic. The fear of loss of things we love and value is a blight on our lives. When we are afraid of a perceived threat to take away what we think we own, we will eventually become angry and aggressive and meet the perceived threat head-on, sometimes with violence and hatred causing misery to another human being.
When we compare our gifts and talents with those of others, we create a social pecking order, and we think we are ahead in life. If we are satisfied that we are successful, we feel okay. If not, we may feel anxious, become competitive, and strive to move up the ladder of life. Worse yet, are those who use position for personal power and financial gain at the expense of others. But as we all know positions and power are changeable—you can be the boss one day and an nobody the next. Ego-tripping up and down the socio-economic ladder is not a recipe for personal joy and peace, but can bring conflict and anguish in the bat of an eye. All these things and thoughts are just illusions. In the world of illusion, we are lost and imprisoned, slaves to our desires and our need for false power at the expense of country, neighbours and family.
It seems a stretch of the imagination to claim ownership of even a little part of the world, when it will ultimately be outside of our control and will continue to live on for millennia to come. And knowing that the human body also is short lived, should keep us all grounded. Consumed by power and possessions, we completely miss living a rich life. Author and philosopher Iris Murdoch offered this advice: “We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.” If we had the understanding and the acceptance that everything in this life is temporary greed, avarice, violence, envy, resentments, building possessions, finding sharing too painful, and living a life of deception and dishonesty would become a thing of the past. Integrity, justice, caring, loving your fellow man, generosity of time, possessions, and talents would be spread for the overall good of every human being.
We often appear to be blind to the fact that all of us will die. Sooner or later. But the Reaper will reap His crop, and it will not matter either you are rich or poor, only how much love and care you gave to those whose paths you cross. There are only two commandments; Love God and your neighbour as yourself. And who is your neighbour? Mankind of every description, without exception, even those who differ from us in beliefs and religion. As we leave this world, it will not matter about who, what, or where you are from, we will be judged on how we lived and how we loved.
Peg Hanafin, MSc. 4/5/2018