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Ownership is 9/10's of the Law

The other day I was listening to the radio while driving in the car. I was flipping through stations and caught the tail end of one of our local church's paid radio spots. If you listen to the radio a lot in Springfield then at one time or another you've probably heard this guy. His name is Bob Casady and he's the senior pastor of Schweitzer United Methodist Church. They have little radio "commercials" if you can call them that. They're probably better classified as mini podcasts. He usually starts off asking a question or making some sort of observation and then he expands upon it a bit. He always makes good points and they're pretty interesting to listen to. He always ends them with, "I'm Bob Casady and these are my perceptions." Then, he throws Schweitzer UMC in there somwhere but I forget exactly how he words it.

Anyway, I missed the meat of the radio spot, but I did catch the summing up of it at the end. He said, "It's okay to own things as long as you don't let them own you." It's hard to argue with that, and I'm not going to. After all, I agree with the statement. But, then again, doesn't everybody? It's one of those statements that sounds deep and meaningful, but is really just a safe statement that no one will challenge. Don't worry, Bob, I'm not attacking your perceptions. I didn't even hear all of it. I'm simply doing what I believe you would want me to do. Explore the concept.

So, let us explore. Here is my question: At what point do you belong to your belongings? When does what you own take ownership of you? I have two contrasting thoughts on this subject and let me share them both with you. The first requires me to travel back in time a bit to 1999. I had a CD collection at this time that I had been building since 1994. If I liked a band, I bought all of their albums. I'd even look for bootlegs or live recordings because I couldn't get enough. I even caught myself on many occasions buying an album that I didn't really like just so I could complete a band's discography. Every time I bought a new album (two or three times a week) I would rearrange my cd case because I had them in a very specific order. This was not your average run-of-the-mill cd case, either. I special ordered this case. It held 250 cds including their artwork. It was thick and it was heavy and it was popular. People loved to flip through it. It was like going to the record store without having to go anywhere. It was cool. Now let me admit what was going on behind the scenes to enable the making and maintaining of this case. I was addicted. It was a little shrine that I had built. It was no longer about having a variety of music to listen to, it was about having the best collection. It was about watching people's reactions when they looked through them. Now, I have a hard time even remembering what it was about. But, it wasn't good or healthy, I can tell you that. In the end, I had just over 300 albums and and I had probably spent an average of $7 or $8 on each of them. I had the specialty case, two other smaller leather cases, horizontal racks for the cases, two vertical shelves full of cases, etc. I had blown a lot of money on this, but it's not just about the money. I would get angry if someone put the CDs back in the case in the "wrong slots". I would go through and spin them all around until they were all horizontally shown in the window. I wasn't just addicted. I had a localized obsessive-compulsive disorder. In 1999, I had grown apart from my old friends. Most of them moved away. I got saved. I made new friends. I had a new lifestyle. I didn't listen to the CD's anymore, but I still felt the same way about them. I realized at that time the problem that they had become and I felt a need to be rid of them. So, I started selling them for next to nothing and I did sell a few, but they weren't going away fast enough so I burned them. I went camping, built a bonfire, and burned them. It was liberating. Take note that it wasn't just the music itself that was wrong but it was what it represented for me. Since, I have reacquired a few of the albums but they don't hold the same power. They're just a few scratched up CDs that get very little attention or play time.

This radio broadcast also brought to mind one of the conversations that Edward Norton's character had with Brad Pitt's character in the movie Fight Club. Norton's apartment had just exploded due to a gas leak and he had lost everything that he had in the fire that followed the explosion. Pitt explains how Norton didn't need this stuff anyway and that he was the better off because of it. He goes on to say, "Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy (stuff) we don't need." This line of thinking is so very true. I have to work where I work so that I can pay for all the amenities that my family enjoys. I work more than I do any other thing. I only sleep about 40 to 45 hours a week. I work at SRC for that long and that's not counting all the work that I do around the house. So, if all this work is to pay for these things, do they really own me?

These two examples of being owned by things are very different, but have lots of similarities. The CDs brought on ownership through obvious addiction. The Fight Club theory brought on ownership in much the same way, however it is socially acceptable here in the US to have all these things and have to work hard to pay for them. Actually, it's not just acceptable, it's encouraged. Why should it be embarrassing to drive a car that has a bad paint job and dents everywhere? Does the car get from A to B? Why then must the trip from A to B be "in style"? Yet, all across the country, every day people trade in their perfectly good running cars for the newer, more expensive models. And people don’t think that they, too, are addicted?

So, then, where do we draw the line? I’ll tell you where. And I’ll use another movie to do it. Robert DeNiro’s character in Heat said to Val Kilmer’s character, “Allow nothing in your life that you can’t walk out on in 30 seconds flat, if you spot the heat around the corner.” He was talking about living a life of crime that is potentially running from the police if they ever show. But, what I mean by using this quote is simply this: One day, we'll all walk away from what we have worked our entire lives to collect. Only those things that have no physical weight can we carry with us when we go. So, if your physical possessions are getting in the way of you having more spiritual possessions then you need to clean house.

What do you think?


Where moth and rust do not destroy! Thats what comes to mind after reading this. I remember that cd collection, it was nice.

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