Saturday, September 11, 2004

"Not mine" - a spiritual discipline

Recently I have been attempting to follow a small spiritual discipline: endeavoring to eliminate the use of the words "my" and "mine" (I had to end this sentence early so as not to say "from my vocabulary"). The idea behind this discipline is not merely the elimination of two monosyllabic words, but rather the complete reshaping of a way of thinking about the world and the things we use.

Every time I catch myself about to use one of these words, I ask myself how I think about the object in question. When I say "my car," I refer to an automobile that could serve the needs of many others during the hours it sits idle outside. "My house" should actually be a place of hospitality for many others. My clothes, my stuff, my books (OK, now this is getting personal); was all of this really put on the earth just so I could possess and enjoy it to the exclusion of all others? Why is it that the only way we know to relate to the world is through categories of ownership?

Some examples are more difficult. "My wife," for instance. We have pledged ourselves to each other, but is she really mine, my possession, some kind of chattel? Probably better to call her by name, respecting her unique identity as a person, rather than referring to her obliquely through myself.

After all, this is perhaps the only thing that is truly "ours" in this world: a name, nothing but a name, and even that we share with others.

"For 'mine' and 'yours'-- those chilly words that introduce innumerable wars into the world -- should be eliminated from that holy Church... The poor would not envy the rich because there would be no rich. Neither would the poor be despised by the rich, for there would be no poor. All things would be in common."

--St. John Chrysostom

3 comments:

Stacy said...

Wow, that's quite a challenge. I work with special ed. children who have no concept of real life pronouns...mine, hers, ours, etc. It gets a little crazy sometimes. "No, don't take that from her, those are her meds..." It seems to me that it's best to put down boundaries in order to see the beauty of free will. Doesn't giving first imply ownership?

Call you wife, "mine." There's security and honor of her as a woman in "mine."

Sampson said...

On the blog, she goes by "the she-guerilla," which she actually digs.

S.

Stacy said...

she-guerilla...cute :)