The joys of intentional ownership

The joys of intentional ownership
Photo by Marcin Galusz / Unsplash

No piece of clothing, jewellery or car will make you happy. They may cause a momentary spike in your happiness, but past a base level of comfort and safety, personal goods can not and will not, make you happy.

If you’re around my age then you’ve spent some time with a polyphonic ringtone, coloured screen phone. The kind that only had enough memory for contacts, SMS’ and the occasional MMS. You probably spent your downtime editing all your contacts to have the correct name, surname, birthday and home address.
You likely also found out that you could copy music from a friend and recreate your favourite pop hits as polyphonic tones — ah, the good old days. These devices are a far cry from the latest iPhone which can capture a picture in the dark without a flashlight and map your room into a 3D representation, and yet, these 100MB  coloured screen phones brought so much joy.

Why did they bring us that much joy? Was it the missing drama of Twitter and Facebook? The lack of peer pressure and envy powered by Instagram? Close, but I’d like to propose that it was something else; phones were enjoyable because they were, "pull devices".

In the early era of the internet, you had to pull information down yourself. This lead to the advent of companies like Google and Yahoo, even Yahoo answers, that could rank this information by quality and relevance to allow for a better pulling experience — phrasing. This era of pull technologies is best defined by curiosity, unlike the peer and algorithm curated timelines we consume today.

When you only get to see what you initiate, the pace of consumption is slowed and made intentional — you engage with information more intimately. This slowed and intentional mode of consumption is what allowed us to unravel all the secrets held by early phones, like gaining access to the system with unlock codes, pushing our speakers to play past manufacture limits and playing music in the background, well before processors and batteries could cope with the functionality.

It is now more common to consume on artificial impulse — to consume solely based on opinions outside ourselves. Yes, that phone and that bag and those sneakers have rave reviews, but why do you really want them? How will you be different once you have them? Will they add anything of lasting value to your life?

I have come to realise that it is not what we own but how we own things, that adds to our life.

If we never cultivate our ability to own and consume with intention, we end up surrounded by items that direct our lives and not the other way around. Personal belongings, material or otherwise, which we allow into our lives without proper interrogation erode the quality of our lives.

Your phone can be a device that helps you document your life, work on the go, communicate with loved ones, even be a personal meditation coach, but it can also be a source of procrastination and anxiety if you build up the habit of reaching for it every time a moment of silence appears.

A car can be a harbinger of freedom, a way to get to work, a vehicle for exploring wonders, but it can also be a source of strain if poorly maintained or a cause of anxiety if it stretches us financially.

Relationships can be unending sources of comfort and guidance, everflowing streams of love and kindness, but they can be an unrelenting energy drain when communication is poor and upkeep is low.

Personal possessions, like many things in life, do not give, they give back — you get back, what you put in. If you look after your personal belongings they will last, and if you use them to support a healthy life, you will be adorned with wisdom and peace.