Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Ownership of Things

Returning to the present day:


I bought a new car, the first new car I have ever owned. The old white rattle-trap was becoming unreliable. With so much long-distance driving these days I decided to buy a cheap, reliable, fuel-efficient new car. It is all those things, and it is also fun to drive.


The fact that I like my new black car is concerning. I never really liked the old white car; it was just a functional thing that got me from place to place. During this phase of my life in which I am often alone I find myself becoming attached to things. The fact that my new car fits my values of thrift and environmentalism only increases my sense of attachment.

I was told when I was younger, "Always care about people and use things, not vice-versa." I recall the Sisters of Charity I admired in Haiti. Their cheap flip-flops were the only things they owned in the entire world. They walked freely and joyfully in places where someone with a nice car and a wallet full of credit cards could never have been. Similarly there are places the old white junker could take me that my new black car doesn't go so comfortably. The beat up white car could be left in front of a homeless shelter or driven up these winding Tennessee hollers without the awkwardness that a shiny new car creates.

The fact is that the ownership of nice things isolates one from others. There are certain considerations you must take for your property, that makes you lonelier than before. It seems to me that extreme wealth must be the saddest place a person can be.


As a young and idealistic student, poverty was easy to achieve. Now an idealist with a family and responsibilities I find certain nice things seem unavoidable. I tell myself that these things are still tools I will use to do what I am called to do. But I cannot help but wonder if years from now I might find myself safe behind locked doors fretting over protecting my property from the very ones I had hoped to serve.

3 comments:

Melissa said...

Wow- what a great entry! We will be chewing on that for a while...

-Melissa and Luke

Melissa said...

Wow- what a great entry! We will be chewing on that for a while...
-Melissa and Luke

Simon Schempp said...

To become attached to material things, like your car, is only human. It gives you comfort, convenience, and a sense of responsibility and achievement. As long as you don’t let your attachment to material things become more important than your loved ones or the people that you work hard for, then don’t be afraid to allow yourself to like your car! It’s a very beautiful car, after all. I hope you’ve still got it.