Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Is Possession Nine-Tenths of the Law?

Levittown, PA (c.1959)
In essence we're all lessors. Ownership is an illusion. You think you own the house, but just as is said about some cancers, the house will probably outlive you. Even the fruits of all your labors, your pension, your life savings, your retirement fund—they’re really not your own. The house will be bought by someone else who will then proceed to have the illusion of ownership and the savings, unless you gamble away all your dough in Las Vegas, will in all likelihood end up in the pockets of your heirs or in the coffers of the charities  designated in your will. Still in all, you walk around mildly comforted by your so-called possessions, your stocks, your books, your jewelry, that Rolex you received on your fiftieth, or that good example of your connoisseurship, the piece of art that you purchased and that turns out to be going up in value. It’s a nice feeling. The ground you walk on is yours, as is the roof over your head and the pet who scampers towards the front door when you come home from the movies on Saturday night with your wife and/or your children or for that matter your friends or business associates. The universe is filled with nouns on which you can place a possessive pronoun—that is until death steps in and relieves you of your legal rights. It’s a terrible feeling to be deprived of everything you own and unless you’re the unfortunate victim of a natural disaster it’s not a reality you’re necessarily familiar with. “The things which I have seen I now can see no more,” says Wordsworth in “Intimations of Immortality.” You may wake up from a bad dream of loss and find comfort in reaching across the bed to the warm body of your beloved, but one day you will no longer be there for them, nor they for you. When you look at a skeleton devoid of flesh and soul, you realize you never really owned your body either.

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