Are time and responsibility our only real possessions?

Another of those first-thing-in-the-morning ideas, which arose in part from a conversation on social-architectures that I’ve been having with gift-economy maven Alpha Lo.

Our whole economy is built around the idea of possession, and exchange of possessions; yet what do we really possess?

Things? Not really – a point made all too evident by the phrase “you can’t take it with you”…

Ideas? We don’t even know where they come from, so the whole concept of ‘intellectual property’ is a bit moot anyway.

Relationships? They only exist when maintained by both parties, and they usually fail if anyone tries to possess them, so that option doesn’t work either.

Faith? Hope? Belief? A more likely kind of ‘possession’, though it tends to break down for the same reasons as for relationships.

What else?

The only themes I could find were time and responsibility.

We each have a certain amount of time. We have no idea how long that might be, or what will happen in that time, but it belongs to us alone. We can give our use of that time to someone else – hence all the mess of ’employment’ and ‘compensation’ and ‘familial duties’ and the rest – but we can’t give the time itself to anyone else. It’s our possession alone: our responsibility as to what we do with it.

And we do each have our own responsibility, as ‘response-ability’ – our ability to choose appropriate responses within and to the context. Through responsibility, and through our responsibilities, we express who we are in what we do, how we think, how we relate, what we choose.

We possess our time, and our responsibility. They possess us. Everything else seems to be an option.

Comments/opinions, anyone?

1 Comment on “Are time and responsibility our only real possessions?

  1. There are three interesting angles to this discussion.

    Firstly, what are the “objects” that can be possessed? Tom suggests time and responsibility. On Twitter, Chris Potts adds health. But does health (physical, mental, spiritual) belong to a different category than other forms of wealth (brotherhood, liberty, the pursuit of happiness)? “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” (Hillel the Elder)

    Secondly, the reflexive nature of possession – in an ironic twist of the Master-Slave paradox (Hegel – see Slavoj Zizec passim) we are possessed by our possessions. “I was your slave, now you are mine, I am Time.” (Incredible String Band) “If not now, when?” (Hillel the Elder)

    Thirdly, who is the “we” (the Subject) in this discussion – individual or collective? Mental health can be seen as the property of a family rather than an individual; vaccination campaigns protect the health of the community (so-called herd immunity). Whose health, whose time, whose responsibility? “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (Donne) “If I am only for myself, what am I? (Hillel the Elder)

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