What do I own - truly own? A chance phrase I read made me start thinking about this basic concept.
According to the normal concept of the word in the United States, I "own" (in conjunction with Prairiewolf) 4 dogs and a cat, a home and 10 acres of land, many books, furniture, 2 cars and a truck, lots of clothes, and so forth.
But as I list all of that, a niggling feeling of doubt arises. Do I really own all of that? What is my real relationship with each of those beings and items?
First of all, there is the classic question: do I own these things or do they own me? Trust me, when I'm feeling the recurrent obligation to dust, vacuum, mend, and otherwise manage inanimate objects, I find myself asking whether my life belongs to me or if it doesn't truly belong to all of this stuff that we've accumulated.
That makes me want to look up the actual definition of "to own".
With some apologies to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 3rd Edition, for rather sloppily quoting their careful work, the definitions the dictionary gives are:
"belonging to oneself..."
"used to express immediate or direct kinship"
"to have or hold as property"
"to have power over"
"to acknowledge to be true, valid or as claimed".
I'd say that the third definition, with overtones of the fourth definition, comes closest to the standard concept of ownership.
I could, however, definitely say that the dogs and cat "have power over" me, and therefore own me, perhaps almost as much as I own them. (On my 10th time out the door to watch over our blind dog in the yard, it definitely feels like she has more power over me more than I have over her!)
There's another nuance here that's arising today. What is the difference between things I own...and things I really just tend? (Is "tending", for all intents and purposes, the same as "being owned by"?) PW and I technically own this house and land, but they will long outlast us and we are likely just a small part of their history. Truthfully, I think we just tend our house and land rather than truly own it, no matter what it says on the deed.
Does that mean that the house and land actually owns us?
It does feel like I truly own the books and furniture and vehicles. Yes, they exist separately from me and they may very well outlast me, but their value is chiefly the value that they have in my (our) life.
Except for the family history items. Those have a history that began before our "ownership" and that hopefully will outlast that same ownership. I'm back to being simply a "tend-er" again.
In some ways it is as simple as ownership enjoyments vs. ownership responsibilities. Saying that, anything you could actually get rid of by destroying it would be something you truly own.
Transfering responsibility and care to someone else, though, leads me back to the idea of ownership as tending.
So, for me, if I could destroy it without a qualm, I own it. If I would feel obligated to pass responsibility for it on to someone else, I am simply a tend-er.
By those standards, I own very little: some of my books (but not the good ones or the important ones); the everyday accompaniments to modern life like shampoo and cleaning supplies; clothes; cars.
But I tend a lot. Our house and land. The animals. The important books. The family history things.
I own a few things, but most of my "possessions" own me.
I'm not sure how I feel about that state of things.