Friday 9 October 2015

Ownership: Maintaining Control in a Fragile World

There have been a lot of stories recently in our media that have me wondering if our need for ownership is damaging our society. Many of us own the patch of land that we live on. We paid quite a sum of money, and perhaps are still paying, to claim ownership of our block, our little section of Australia.

The way our society views land as a possession has a huge influence on our attitude to sharing our land. The First Peoples of this land have a a very different view of the land. It is more about listening and being in relationship than possession and ownership. There is a lot we can learn from them. Is it any wonder that some people are so against accepting refugees into our country? The fear that we might lose control and ownership of our land is enough to have us metaphorically building our fences higher and stronger. But, is this land really ours to own? Perhaps, if we could learn to be stewards rather than owners of the land, we would have a much more generous view to sharing our land and welcoming the stranger.

Another area where people seem to assert their ownership is in the search for truth. We crave for some sort of security in life and so claim to own the truth. It makes us feel safe and gives us certainty in a fragile world. But, as soon as someone with a different truth comes along we feel under threat. Our own need to own the truth, to grasp hold of it defensively, causes us to react to difference in fear. Those who do not fit our picture of truth are excluded, oppressed or perhaps in a more subtle way, prayed for fervently that they might conform to our ways. Is the truth really ours to own? Perhaps, if we could learn to be seekers rather than owners of the truth we would have a much more generous view to sharing our wisdom with the wisdom of the stranger.

Patriotism, fundamentalism and materialism all contain an element of possession and ownership. As many of us heard in our churches last Sunday, Jesus answer to the rich, young man seeking eternal life was to give away his possessions. We could say, he was challenged to give away his sense of ownership. I wonder if he meant more than just material wealth? As we hold so tightly to the things in life that we most fear losing, do we really have the capacity to know the joy that they bring us. Perhaps our sense of ownership is what holds us back from living a life of love and compassion. 

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