Apr 25, 2011

I me mine

"Flowing more freely than wine,
All thru' Your life, I me mine."

When you were a child when you would see a toy you liked you would scream "mine" and hold onto it with all your fury. When someone wanted to borrow it you would scream "but that is MY plunkie! No she can't play with MY plunkie"

Yes, I know, I do know, some words are inconsequential, sometimes we adopt phrases like a taste for candy, and every once in a while a phrase or term just... slips out. Sometimes your dog has eaten someone's lunch and they are yelling "whose damn dog IS this?" and there really is no better way to phrase it "Sorry, that's mine." You go to the cleaners and what are supposed to say: "I am here to pick up a suit"? No, No...You are there to pick up YOUR suit.
I mean, really, all words have their place.

But as I get older I can't help but to notice the way people phrase things, the words they pick to express themselves. Especially in the most common and simple of circumstances.

Understand, everywhere you go, there you are. You carry your presence with you and within that an ownership. If you an express a thought we assume it is what YOU believe, if you are carrying a traveler mug we assume that mug was bought by you. Presence is undeniable, as is differentiation and presumed ownership. If you hold hands with someone they are your mate in most people's eyes.

But think about how often you use the possessive. Is it your cat, or the cat, or a cat? Or is it George, the cat. Is it our house or my house or 2200 Robinhood Lane"? What is your default?

If I walk up and compliment something that is yours do you make sure I know who it belongs to? Are you annoyed when waht is yours is mistaken for another's?

I mean no judgement as I explore this question. In fact, as an extension I think about this: it is as a matter of self discovery that we come to know who we are. The most self aware people explore where they start and where they end with regularity. So awareness of who are you are, what you want, and even what you are willing to own, is key in the path to self discovery. One might even say accepting ownership of you, yourself, your possessions and your actions is part of maturity.

On the other hand, to take possession, to own too much, it attempt to control and conquer things no man can every truly hold onto, can be truly unhealthy, can be a sign of insecurity or weakness. That child screaming about their plunkie? They know that plunkie is about to be given away to their friend if they don't raise a fit.

And to complicate things, the question, quite naturally, is cultural as well as personal . There is a passage in the Bhagavad Gita that can be translated as "They are forever free who renounce all selfish desires and break away from the ego-cage of "I", "me" and "mine" to be united with the Lord. This is the supreme state. Attain to this, and pass from death to immortality." Some cultures believe in more communal, less autonomous means of belonging, believe differentiation is backward, a sin.
Simply put: some cultures believe no one can own a piece of land. Others throw a flag down the moment they see an open beach.
And I can see the freedom in a world without possession, in a world in which you exist without need for differentiation. But I live in a America, and in a world in which my social security number can tell the government every dollar I "own", every debt I have paid. So I don't know that such abandonment of material possession is viable. Ownership, be it intellectual or physical property is pretty ingrained around these parts.

So maybe a better question is: how often do you unconsciously insert your presence and ownership without truly considering the context or implication?

Say you are at a meeting, and an idea is brought up. And you are perfectly aware the idea originated with you. Now lets say. for the sake of a point, there is no merit to be gained from credit for this idea. You will not score a point with your boss or get a raise. It's an average idea, so average that it floated from one head to another and the person who voiced it barely recognized it was not their own original notion. Possibly, even, you said it first, but sooner or later another most likely would have voiced it . Do you want people to know that is your idea? Is it important that at least one person know? Possibly the whole group?

And lets say we are at a potluck. And everyone brought a dish. Does everyone know which dish you brought? Are you sure they know you brought THAT bottle of wine?

And let's say we're all friends... is it important that everyone know who your best friend or partner is? Must everyone know who you came with?

It's an interesting question, and to be honest I do not have an answer. I am not implying a nice black line where affection ends and pride and ego begin. I don't know that discovering that line would help anyone. I don't know that it wouldn't.

I do have a challenge though. I was once given an assignment in a Language and Human relationship class. I was not allowed to ask a question for one week. Naturally, asking questions is a good thing. Questions solve problems and gain clarity. But the point of this exercise was to examine that amount of questions we ask that are actually requests, that are not seeking an answer at all. You aren't asking if you can have the lamb and potatoes, you are telling the waiter you'll have the lamb and potatoes. You aren't asking if you can use someone's rest room, you are telling them you need to use their rest room. On the other hand, you may need to ask them where it is. Get it? Sometimes examining our speech reveals how divisive it truly can be.

SO here is the challenge: go one week without using the possessive. It might seem impossible at first but there are ways around it. You aren't there for your suit. You brought a suit in and you are here to pick it up. That isn't your boyfriend, that is John. And that idea, it isn't yours, it's a thought. Temporal and passing and up for sharing and growth. Sure you will find yourself talking in circles, sure sometimes ownership will still be communicated and obvious. But try it. No mine, no my, maybe an "ours" from time to time, but only to express that sharing nature.

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