On Ownership and Stewardship

I want to write on this idea of ownership.

It is possessing something as one’s own and using it as one pleases.

And I start with some things that we take for granted as ours: our thoughts, our words, our bodies. Then I talk about material private property.

My thoughts seem not to be mine.

Are not all thoughts because of the influence of different people and experiences upon us? We are impressed by different outside influences and then we express our thoughts in different ways. But how can we say that these thoughts are ours if their origin is outside of ourselves? In this way, can we really say that anything is our original work?

The words that I use to express my thoughts do not come from me.

I did not create the English language. I did not create any language.
If I did not create the English language, can I really claim ownership for the thoughts that I express using this medium of language?

My body did not come from me.

It was borne from the union of my parents with their flesh. But even then, their bodies did not come from them, but through the union of their parents’ flesh. This goes on until the very first union. How can I say that any part of my body is really mine, if they did not come from me?

What do I actually own as mine?

If all of these things that I take for granted as mine have their origin outside of me, then how can I say that they really are mine?

So this even applies to the things we say that we own. We own our house, our car, our clothes, our laptops, our books, our food, our dog, etc. How can we really claim ownership to these if our ownership of our words, our thoughts, and our bodies are tenuous at best?

The idea of owning something is a fairly recent invention of modernity.

Private property was the early beginnings of the phenomenon we now acknowledge as capitalism and other such systems that claim ownership.

But do we really own anything? And is ownership really necessary for a system of getting what we need to live to work?

Before ownership was a reality, people just took what they needed from nature. Communities of animals and people marked certain boundaries of territory as theirs, but they know that others can also pass into this territory as they get what they need. People and animals alike didn’t even think about ownership.

Do we own something because we bought it?

Ok. Say you bought something. Now it’s yours. But going deeper, where did money even come from? It came from the imagination. The very idea of money only exists because two or more people believe in it. But in reality, money doesn’t really exist. The question that is begging to be answered though is, what is the effect of this idea of owning things on us?

What does ownership do to us?

There is a sense of entitlement that is reinforced by this idea of ownership, as if one can do anything that one wants to whatever he or she owns. Ownership is legal, but what is legal doesn’t make it right. People need to look at the big picture of how ownership actually affects themselves and the quality of their relationships with each other and the environment.

With ownership and private property, there came the possibility of hoarding. There came the transactional and detached relationships.
With money and banks, there came the possibility of loans and debts. There came people having to work for money all their lives.
With an emphasis on owning many things and having a lot of money, we have massive inequalities, disconnectedness from each other, and environmental degradation.

You can have your own stuff, but at what cost?

Sure, you can have your own stuff, but is it worth the cost of making relating to your fellow people detached transactions rather than fully human relationships?

Sure, you can have your own stuff, but is it worth being enslaved to debts like mortgages and so you have to work your whole life long rather than living a life free of debt and worries?

Sure, you can have your own stuff, but is it worth the inequalities of haves and have-nots and the enmity caused by this rather than enjoying the peace of equality?

Sure, you can have your own stuff, but is it worth the destruction of the environment because of people who want to own more and more money and stuff rather than sustaining and appreciating the beauty of nature for free?

So what do I propose as an alternative to this ownership thing?

Stewardship. In this, the focus is not on you being able to do anything to your own things.

It is the responsible and careful management of something entrusted to you.

Your planet earth, your body, your mind, your being, your things – all of these are entrusted to you. You cannot hold unto them. For a brief moment, all of these are entrusted to you, and then you will disappear from this earth.

You do not know from where all this things came. But they will come back to where they came from. It is not from you. It is only being entrusted to you. So take care of these things. They are precious.

This does not mean you should not enjoy them. Far from it. This is the true enjoyment, of knowing that it is entrusted to you so that you may enjoy it together with others. Enjoyment and happiness are only complete if they are shared.

So in being a steward, you take care of all that is entrusted to you, knowing that someday, they will be taken from you.


I am a steward, not an owner.