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Shah On Possession

January 14, 2013

Excerpted from The Commanding Self, by Idries Shah:

Possession and Possessing

Q: Are possessions and possessing things mixed up in peoples’ minds with ‘relationships’?  And is this connected with self-will? 

A: Yes, they are mixed up.  Just think of the various uses of the possessive form of ‘my’, linked as it is with what we think to be ourselves.  At random: my father, my son.  You are in a different relationship to each, but you use the same word for these two.  Then there is my money, something over which you are supposed to have control – and my cup, something out of which you happen to be drinking, and which, for that period, is considered to be yours.

From our point of view, we can see here a tremendous inefficiency of the mental working which, because of the associations of the word ‘my’, will carry over one kind of ‘my’ from one situation to another, thus confusing itself.  Again, there are qualified and absolute-apparently-‘mys’.  A person gets caught on them, too.  ‘My duty’ for instance, is not absolute unless it is a kind of duty with which few people are really familiar.  But since the word ‘duty’ has been taken to mean something continuous, the mental mechanism is confused and not always able to know when a duty has really been discharged.  So people go on trying to carry out duties which are duties no longer (if ‘duty’ means something continuous to them); or sometimes look at a long-term duty as a short-term one.

This is not playing with words.  It is pointing out that playing with words vitiates the thinking capacity of the human mind.  There is no established accurate method of cerebration in wide use.  The mind which deals in such inefficient materials cannot grasp more refined, that is, more accurate or really objective ones.

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