The Myth of Ownership

I’ve been struggling with the concept of ownership for a long time, and suspect it may be just a myth.

Many people here tragically lost homes, investments, jobs, retirement funds in the economic downturn. It seems like we have gone through that moment when the illusion of ever increasing wealth is faced with a harsh reality, and a disordered psyche fails to integrate the two. I was spared, in that I didn’t have so much to lose, not really owning the usual things we have come to expect a person and a family should. I didn’t have the basic elements of the classic American dream, no house, no car, no retirement, no investments.

I was supposed to inherit land at one point in my life, that I gave up, and I did have a car for a while that I gave up, and now I can say it is much easier for me in some ways when I keep a small apartment and use public transportation. I’m not sure things like land can be owned, after all. I could think that I owned a house or land, and the taxes could be too much to keep it, the government could decide to take it with eminent domain, it wouldn’t really be mine anyway-not here. Where I grew up in New York, the land had been occupied by different cultures over the ages, none of whom I would think of as owning it. The words of people who lived here before us come to mind, how can you own the sky, water, land? A version of Chief Seattle’s response to the US government offer to buy land is here:

I do have an American dream. It is the one where I know how to plant and cultivate and share, and cook and build and create, and my neighbors do to and so we are never without meaningful work. It’s the one where we are a nation of “we” helping meet all of each other’s needs and not a nation of “I”. Some days I’m afraid we all like having “things” and money way to much to ever have a real revolution. Hearing so many voices raised all around the world this October 15th, I felt like waking up to a new day, where the dream was not just for sleep but for waking.

What’s your idea of a dream nation, community, world? Please leave a comment to share views with readers, and I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

You may also be interested in Short Stories “Death and the Dream” available at



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35 thoughts on “The Myth of Ownership

  1. Love this post and one quote especially, resonated with me – The words of people who lived here before us come to mind, how can you own the sky, water, land?”

    I’m in the processing of writing an historical novel that begins in 1835. That’s the year the US decided to void treaties with the various American Indian Nations. It lead to what can be called genocide with the Trail of Tears in 1838 Members of the eastern tribes were forced off their land and driven to what is now Oklahoma. Their historical lands were confiscated by the US government and turned over to developers. Something to ponder.

    Like you, I’ve been fortunate to avoid personal loss during this severe recession. May be all be thankful for what we do have.

  2. You were asking about dream worlds. Mine would be one where we did not allow Religions to divide us, where we celebrated rather than feared our cultural diversities and where hugs were a norm. It’s not easy to hug with a weapon in your hand, and hugging has great theraputic benefits.
    ( Hugging Religion).
    Chief Seattle and many of the Native Indian leaders were wise about the ways of the world and unable to take in the greed which men display.It’s a shame we strive to make the world better with things like the internet and then so much worse by what we do to it on a daily basis like tear down forests.

      1. Yes, you’re right of course. The harm we do to the environment is imeasurable in terms of our children’s future that any improvement could be a great improvement. Yet so many would want to continue as now for nothing more than profit. It seems between us we could right the world, place and people. xx

  3. Great post! However, is ownership a myth or reality. If one works to earn something than seems to me one own’s it — whether a day’s work of gathering roots, nuts and berries or building a shelter for protection.

    1. Thanks for the visit and sharing views, this is so true when it is the work we have done. Then, when the end comes, we own not even our own feeble body. Something I think about from time to time when I want to claim something as mine.

  4. What do we own? We came empty-handed. And we will leave empty-handed. Everything we ‘accumulate’ is like ‘the dirt on our hands’ ~ washed away in an instant.

    The real question in my mind is ~ what will we create, to leave behind, so that future generations have a better world? In light,


  5. Just stumbled upon your blog. Wonderful post to get us to think about the positioning we have imagined we have in this world. My family and I are preparing to restore our family farmland (now being used by older generations for corn and soybean production in true Big Farming fashion), slowly turning it into a permacuture/grassfarm self-sustaining system. We return continuously to the word, “steward,” to remind ourselves of our role in the dynamic relationship between this land and us.

    1. What a beautiful concept, self-sustaining system – I wonder how this is done. Thank you for sharing this here. We grew most of what we consumed where I grew up, but here, now, I only grow herbs mostly, like sage, lavendar and mint (and ideas sometimes).


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