America: What’s Mine is Your’s… But Gimme My Stuff!

What would happen if one day the words my, mine, I, you, yours, his, hers, and theirs were completely deleted from the English language? I can only imagine how confusing Christmas morning would be… and public parking lots would be absolute CHAOS! Now, all jokes aside, I’d like to ask you to take a second to consider what you categorize as “mine.” I’m sure we can all think of a quick list of at least 10-15. My car, my home, my friend, my mother, my hat, my shoes, my watch, my lunch, my idea, my heart, my mind, my day…. You get the point. But it’s valuable to consider that the English language, and thereby our life perspective, is such that we apply some kind of ownership to literally everything around us. I mean, when I was a child I used to pluck leaves off of plants that I thought were pretty just because I wanted to take them with me… Only to throw them away 15 yards down the path.  Have you ever wondered how such a perspective shapes who we are? Or how it shapes the lives we live?

Well, as I have said before, I have been studying the Korean language quite hard since I arrived here in Korea. And since then, I have come to notice a very interesting difference between their language, and ours. Instead of saying something like, “Is that your pen?” Korean’s would say the equivalent of, “Pen exists?” And instead of saying “Your hat doesn’t fit my head very well,” they would say, “Hat doesn’t fit.” At first this was super confusing to me, I mean, how did anyone have any idea what was going on? Then, in a recent discussion with a Korean friend, we thought about how this country is very much like one large family. When we eat together, no one orders their own food. We order one large dish and everyone eats from that, something western cultures fittingly call “family style.” When I play basketball with my team, someone brings a bunch of big bottles of water and everyone shares. When I am on the subway, everyone stands close to one another if they need to, and bumping into one another is not an offensive gesture. No one ever says the equivalent of “my house,” even if they live alone. You just say “our house” instead.  With my family, the Brinkerhoff’s, I do all of these things. We share water and sit close to each other and share food without hesitation… and of course, we all live in our house. But outside of that house is a different story. We look at those we don’t know with hostility or naive trust. We must always keep mental stock of what is ours and theirs. And we are born into this mindset that “I must claw MY way to the top if I want to make MY life a success for ME and MY family.” Isn’t that the motto of anyone living the “American Dream?”

THE TAKEAWAY: If we live our lives constantly applying ownership to everything we think feel and touch, we will begin to see the world as something that was put here for us and us alone. But that very mindset is so limiting, so narrow, that it actually prevents us from seeing the vastness that the world has to offer. “Giving that which you wish to recieve,” hardly seems difficult to do when nothing you have is really yours. The money you make will be someone else’s someday when you spend it. The shoes you wear were at one point owned by factory workers, creative designers, rubber plantation owners, and  will one day be owned by someone else if you donate them or throw them away. So today all I’m asking is that you take a second to question what you consider to be “mine,” because if you claim too much, you might be hurting yourself in the long-run.        

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