Life is living. It’s a verb. An action. A motion that appears to move us through time. Possessions are inert. They are inactive. They are still. They are not life. Where it gets confusing is that adults will invest living into working, and then using their thoughts they will apply the value of the relevant work to the actual possession. So an expensive thing is worth something.
The problem is, parents live with kids and kids don’t do that addition of value until they start working. In a way this is one of the most important designations of adulthood that a person will experience. It’s why kids are often seen to be unappreciative. They don’t mean to be. They just can’t do the math yet.
How this difference in perspective leads to suffering is quite simple: a parent or parents works hard at their job(s), they contribute to their society through their taxes so that they have roads to drive on, airports and ports, food inspection, police, ambulance and fire services, public universities etc. etc., and in most countries, free hospitals and medical care as well. Part of what’s left goes towards necessities: food, shelter etc,–and then there’s the stuff we notice.
It’s easy to forget that we helped build a road, it’s a little easier to remember that we’ve paid our mortgage but we really remember buying that new car, or our nice new clothes or our new electronics. Those are the things that most commonly have our work-soul invested in them. These are the things that are choices. These are often given the most value via our thoughts.
Because kids don’t have any way of comprehending this relationship they live in an entirely separate reality from their parents. They can know their parents work and that they get pay that gets spent on things, but those are all abstract ideas until you’re actually at work, getting paid, and having to buy stuff. So to kids life is life and to their parents life has often been translated into their possessions.
Having a reality that is too possession-focused means that breakage, damage and devaluation become reasons to suffer. Someone broke a vase so you’re angry; someone left a mess in the kitchen and made it look less beautiful than in magazines so you’re frustrated; the car is damaged in a minor accident that could have been much worse and you’re scared about the costs.
It is a reasonable stumble into ego for us to suddenly think a flurry of frustrated thoughts when something we have valued has its value reduced or lost. But that fact is why it’s so important to not immediately react whenever possible. Let the chemical storm pass, breathe and then respond from a larger context: is this something you’ll still be mad at a day from now? A week? A year?
Find the living in your life. As much as possible invest in the living; in the motion. By thinking less and being more you will find the world will help expose just what possessions will truly bring you the most value as well as how to understand that value in a larger context. More importantly, that internal quietness will also clearly expose the connections with others that truly give life its greatest value.
Have a wonderful day everyone.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.