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Insights on Ownership From a 5-year-old

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

A 5-year-old stole one of my diamond earrings and later confessed that he couldn't help it. It was so pretty!

How attached are you to your things? What does owning something mean to you?" Every Tuesday, I have my two nephews and their mom over for dinner. They are 3.5 and 5 years old. They have an unquenchable need to touch everything. Every nicknack, rock, crystal, necklace, is picked up and played with. Followed by a plea of, “Can I have this?” 

I have a jewelry box of stuff I never wear and I let them play with it. It afforded their mom and I some time to drink a beer and catch up. 

The rule is that you can play with a lot of stuff at Auntie Schlaw Schlaw’s, (that's what they call me) but you can’t take anything home.  Over the weeks their mother would discover small pieces of amethyst under their pillow, one of my diamond earrings in their pocket, a tiger obsidian in their underwear small pieces of gold jewelry, stuffed in their sippy cup.  All precious jewels of course.  The teachable moment was how stealing is a bad thing. So their mom waited until they decided to tell the truth about the missing items. The 5-year-old eventually came clean and apologized. The 3.5 still believes that the gems are rightfully his.

It made me think about ownership. Who really owns anything? We buy land and then we own it and can do what we want with it. It wasn’t even ours, to begin with. We stole it from the people who lived and honoured it for hundreds of years. So if my nephew steals my amethyst and thinks it is his, is that not just a by-product of colonialism? Or the undeveloped narcissistic mind of a child? Or perhaps that is the cause of colonialism... narcissism? What if we never really owned anything, we just were stewarding it for a time and then responsibly moving it on to someone else or to the proper channels for waste management

When we own things it inherently implies that we can do whatever we want with them.  Curious. If we didn’t live in an economy but rather a society, would ownership change? What if we used and cared for things until they needed to move to someone else. (the storage unit business would be destroyed) Or if something was taken we didn’t feel outraged we just let it go. I wonder if theft would change. Impermanence is a relaxed state of being?

‘It’s mine.’ mentality fascinates me...  What do you think? When something is stolen from you how do you feel? Do you feel outraged, unsafe, betrayed? Or do you feel like you are paying it forward?  Is it easy to let it go or... Do you hold onto it longer than then you should?

How attached are you to the things in your life? breathe deeply, Brenda

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