“It is the preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” ~ Bertrand Russell …
Martin Luther King, Jr once said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” It has been my experience that the prior builds us up and adds beauty to the world around us, while the latter consumes it… and ultimately consumes us. It is like a never ending hunger; one that enslaves us and prevents us from living our lives with fullness and purpose.
Many years of my life have been spent in pursuit of what I thought was security–growing and building up my possessions in the off chance that I might lose something that would require much of my time and effort to replace. I spent countless hours collecting the songs and movies I really liked, only to later find that I rarely listened to or watched them, or that they were now obsolete because better quality versions of them had been released. And so the stuff I had quickly became too much, requiring me to get rid of a lot of the very stuff I had spent so much time and effort accumulating. And perhaps even more damning is the fact that regardless of how much time and effort I spend acquiring more things, the fear I had of losing them or being unable to get them later for some reason, never really went away. Often, it seemed to simply shift to another aspect of my life, or some other thing. And so despite my best efforts, I always came discover that I would never have enough… to have enough.
Why are we so often preoccupied with possessing things, with being focused on getting and spending, accumulating and hoarding? Wordsworth wrote it best saying that “getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” If we are always worried about getting more things–if our major focus is on what to buy, how to afford it, and when to get it–then there are many other aspects of our lives that are being neglected, aspects such as giving, sharing, enjoying, and learning. The fact is that there are so many other ways that we can spend our time and energy in more positive ways, yet our consumer-driven society keeps us thinking that the most important thing that we can do in life is to continue to add to our collections. But if we want to live freely and nobly, it is very important that we focus on things that are noble–on things that do not enslave us as our possessions so often do.
If our possessions prevent us from living freer and fuller lives, then we really need to re-examine our relationship with them, and to try to stop allowing them to overwhelm us and preoccupy our lives. Possessions can be a blessing or a curse. And all that is required of us to make them a blessing is to learn to recognize their positive contributions in our lives and not allow them to define who we are–which includes living with them without worrying whether we lose them or not.
Take some time today to remove some of your old unnecessary possessions.
Questions to consider:
How would you define a “preoccupation with possessions?”
How might we move away from placing importance on possessions, and towards attaching less importance on them?
What to you entails living “freely and nobly?”
For further thought:
“Remember, what you possess in the world will be found at the day of your death to belong to someone else, but what you are will be yours forever.” ~ Henry van Dyke, The Upward Path