You Can Have It
tom walsh


I went to a store recently and watched a man wheeling out a cart that had a 60-inch television on it.  That's five feet of television, from corner to corner.  I know that he had to pay a significant amount of money for such a television, and I couldn't help but think as I saw it, "You can have it."

It's not a judgment at all.  It's a simple fact--I don't want ever to have such a television.  I have absolutely no need of such a thing in my life.  We do watch movies and TV shows on DVD now and then, but we don't have cable or satellite, and we're very glad that we have neither.  Our lives are much simpler without the constant presence of television stations in our home, and without the constant bombardment of advertising that TV brings.  We don't miss it a bit, and when we walk by houses that have two or three satellite dishes on the roof, we always think or say, "They can have them."

When I see someone driving a huge car that seems to serve no purpose other than to be big and imposing, I always think, "He can have it."  I don't want a huge car--I don't want to have to pay for the gas, I don't want to add the extra pollution to the environment, and I don't want to contribute more than I do to our world's dependence on fossil fuels.

Sometimes I'll be with someone who's having a nice, relaxing time having fun with friends, and all of a sudden his or her cell phone will ring, and their lives suddenly are filled with some sort of stress that some other person feels that they should have in their lives.  At those moments, I feel very fortunate that I don't have a cell phone at all, for I appreciate being able to be fully in the moment wherever I may be, instead of constantly being at the beck and call of anyone who happens to have my phone number.  Cell phones?  You can have 'em.

And no, I'm not anti-technological.  I was among the first to have a cell phone, but I got rid of it when I found out just how much they affected the quality of my life.  I'm not anti-people--I love people, and I love being around them.  I just also love being with just one friend when I'm with that friend, and keeping my attention on that person instead of being distracted by phone calls.  And I appreciate it when a friend is able to stay focused on me and on what we're doing.

As I get older, I realize more clearly just how important the teachings of some very wise sages have been concerning our attachment to things in our lives, whether they be big cars that cost us more money than we really can afford, or cell phones that distract us from the present moment, or televisions that keep us addicted to their programming.  I watch as people become enslaved to their things--mere objects--allowing those things to influence their decision-making to an amazing degree.  How often do people decide whether to spend time with family based on what's on TV?  I think that even once should make us re-evaluate our relationship with the television.

People obviously can do whatever they want, and I'm not going to change them.  I know, though, that the quality of my own life has gone up significantly since I decided not to allow any things to have a large amount of control over me.  And while I don't like to see others controlled by things, I know that I really can't do anything about it if they are.  For me, life's far too short for that, though, so as far as I'm concerned, you can have them!

* * * * *

We are possessed by the things we possess.
When I like an object, I always give it to someone.
It isn't generosity--it's only because
I want others to be enslaved by objects, not me.

Jean Paul Sartre

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