Today is April the 15th, and for those of us in the United States, it is the last day to file our taxes (barring all the usual extensions and other means of putting the thing off, that is).
It’s a bit of a relief really.
Mine were dealt with weeks ago, but I’ll be glad to get a bit of a break from the complaints of my friends and neighbors. Every year we seem to greet the spring with a rising chorus of, “They’re taking my money, they’re taking my money, they’re taking MY money….,” the inference being that your property is being stolen by people who don’t deserve it.
But does money equal property?
It’s not tangible.
The paper and the coins that fewer and fewer of us carry are nothing more than placeholders, effigies of a number which itself is a representation of a highly generalized valuation of the total output of goods, services, natural resources, expectations for future development, and compounded debt (yeah, let’s not forget about the debt), that is the product of our nation.
Which is to say that a dollar is worth nothing more than what we all agree it’s worth.
Money is not property.
Money is a social contract.
It’s the stuff that we’ve agreed to use instead of trading a clutch of chickens for a bolt of cloth.
You don’t own it. It belongs to all of us.
And part of the price we all pay for using it, is that we agree to cycle a certain percentage of that which we have accumulated back to that body which does all the printing and tabulating for us.
If you’ve every tried to drive any distance with more than a few chickens in your car, you’d be glad to pay your share.
So, having come this far, I thought that, as a bit of a public service, I should just go ahead and list those things that, unlike the mighty dollar, really do belong to you.
Perhaps you will think of other things as well. Feel free to suggest any additions in the comments below.
Land does not belong to you. I know, I know, you payed a bundle for it, and you slapped a fence around it and posted it with all kinds of big angry ‘PRIVATE PROPERTY’ signs, but really, no. Your little patch of earth was here for hundreds of millions of years before you came along, and will be here again when the oldest of your decedents are nothing but dust. At most, you are a temporary caretaker of those lands to which you hold the deed.
Looked at from this perspective, it becomes clear that instead of the land servicing OUR needs, we are responsible for its care and upkeep.
If anything, we belong to the land. And we pay for the privilege!
Okay, we’ve all got our stuff. And it’s very nice stuff. And we’re all very proud of it. And eventually, with the exception of a few very nice or sentimental items, every bit of it ends up in the dump.
Do you still own a thing after you’ve thrown it away?
But sure, I guess we can put property on the list, even if fleetingly.
Mmmm…, maybe while they’re still in the womb.
Honestly, the whole point of children is that they’re growing away from you bit by bit from the moment you have them.
Also, like it or not, the perspective with which society views us shifts dramatically when children come onto the scene. Because “the children are the future” and with every day that passes they become a little less ours and we become a little more theirs.
What will they do with us in our dotage? Which of our precious things will they allow us to retain? Where shall they choose for us to live?
Our children, indeed.
We’ll hold the little ones tight and give them all the love we can, but let us not delude ourselves into thinking of them as truly ours.
Ah the power of creation which we share with the gods themselves. To take crude matter and shape it into the stuff of dreams and nightmares. To write and rhyme and sing our ideas into being, bringing life and light into the hearts of our fellows.
To create art is to render a piece of yourself for all to share, and what could be more your own than something that is, by definition, an expression of your inner being and talent.
But does an idea, no matter how personal, belong to the artist who renders it for all to see?
Or does it become a shared commodity, with every viewer putting a little of themselves into it, seeing reflected there their own thoughts, their beliefs and biases.
Is art property? Or is it the most deeply personal contribution one could make to the public good?
We all have them.
Our thoughts and dreams, our fears and ambitions…,
They are ours, they exist only within us, and if we cling to them and keep them for ourselves, we can take them with us to the grave unsullied.
I wonder though, what exactly is the value of a thought unexpressed?