I Do Not Own You

The model of relationships that we in Europe – or more broadly, the Christian world – follow is relatively peculiar because I can see in it no advantage except from the point of view of commercial relationships.

  I think it was instituted in an old patriarchal society where you would marry into money (the girl’s family having the initial disadvantage of fielding all the cash) or use marriages increasingly as a means to do nothing but cement relationships between powerful and wealthy families. Why two individuals would decide on a marriage, that is an exclusive union that brings with it unnatural strains and few advantages except perhaps the illusion of permanence, is a puzzle to me.

  There is love, of course, and love binds, as people say. But I consider love to be better expressed in acceptance than in acquisitiveness. To allow someone to be who they want to be is a greater expression of love than saying I want to own you.

  So why enter into an agreement of mutual ownership? Business and tax reasons? Comfort? Laziness? Or actually Love? Puzzling, isn’t it?

  I’m not saying that it is an unnatural thing for two people to decide they want to spend their life with each other – this is a wonderfully beautiful thing – but to artificially limit this by inflexible borders is what I find unnatural. Perhaps it is my nature as a traveler, but I find borders to be woefully artificial things.

  I also wonder how much of a role egoism plays in creating relationships that consist of mutual contracts of ownership. I believe that it is true that I define myself through you, that is, through all the yous that I meet in my life. If you are an expansive and free-willed person, so will I be. If you are tied down by my own wishes and desires, what will you be?

  Also, there is a purely mathematical element involved here. If it is possible for two people to coexist and cohabit, it is possible for three people to coexist and cohabit. If it is possible for three people to coexist and cohabit, it is possible for four people and so on. The variables increase, but the essence remains the same.

  I do not simply mean a collection of sexual affairs – that is something that is possible within or without any framework of relationships and requires very little imagination (it helps if you’re moving around, though). I am thinking about alternative models of human and also sexual relationships.


  Of course that is complicated, requires a lot of investment and understanding and imagination. It also requires you to think differently about ideas of ownership, especially about the strange concept that you can own another person and make decisions for them. It requires you to water down your own ego quite a bit and accept the presence of other people in your mind and heart.

  I am simply ruminating here – when we are young we are implanted with these ideas of ideal relationships and unfortunately it is almost always the same model that causes lots of heartache, guilt and secrecy and suppression of desires while wanting nothing but exclusive happiness. But ideally, I think, the world is full of possibilities for relationships in all forms, shapes and colours. Some might be brief and highly sexual, others slow and deep, others friendly, light and puzzling.

  Permanence or something lasting might develop out of some, but not because we cast the image of permanence on top of them, but because we look back and forward and realize that there are trails in both directions.


Von der Suche nach sich selbst


Vor einigen Jahren las ich in einem Magazin oder Buch einen bemerkenswerten Satz. „Es ist schade,“ schrieb der Autor, „dass so viele Menschen hier [es handelte sich um Indien] nur auf der Suche nach sich selbst sind. Es gibt doch so viele interessante Dinge zu sehen. Die sehen die alle nicht.“

  Damals, vermutlich noch auf der Suche nach mir selbst, stieß ich mich heftig an dem Satz. Es war doch nicht schlecht nach sich selbst zu suchen und außerdem sieht man da doch so vieles usw. usw. Heute, mit Dreißig, weiß ich dass er recht gehabt hat.

  Ich sehe heute viele Menschen, die nach sich selbst suchen und dabei alles andere übersehen. Manchmal macht mich das zornig, manchmal lässt es mich ein wenig verzweifeln. Mit solchen Menschen zu sprechen ist nicht einfach, weil sie auf ihre eigene Reaktion warten anstatt sie geschehen zu lassen. Sie merken immer nur ihre eigene Ansicht und Reaktion auf etwas und spielen sich dann ewig mit dem Gedanken, ob es denn wirklich ihre eigene Reaktion sei, ob sie sich selbst gemäß reagiert haben und so fort.

  Vor meinem zweiten Besuch in Indien hatte ich mir überlegt, dass ich selbst wohl das am wenigsten Interessante im ganzen Land sein würde…und ich hatte vollkommen recht. Es gab dort Menschen mit ihren mannigfaltigen Problemen und Hoffnungen, Komplexitäten, die ich mir nicht hätte träumen lassen, Welten um Welten um Welten. Nur, wenn man aufhört sich mit sich selbst zu beschäftigen und mit den ganzen illusorischen Problemen, die einem das Leben (nach dem eigenen Denken) so schwer machen, dann muss man sich den wirklichen Problemen stellen.

  Ungerechtigkeit, Dummheit, Gier, Selbstsucht, Machtlosigkeit im Angesicht von furchtbaren Handlungen, Gewalt. Alles das geschieht und ab einem gewissen Punkt wird man sich klar, dass man sich innerhalb dieser Welt zurechtfinden muss und das ohne seine Hoffnung oder den positiven Ausblick zu verlieren oder, schlimmer, ihn zu Klischees verkommen zu lassen.

  Vom blinden Optimismus muss man zu einem beweglichen, unbelasteten Denken finden. Die eigenen Sicherheiten muss man leicht und tragbar halten und sie zur Not auch aufgeben können um sich ohne Sicherheiten durchs Leben zu tasten, denn die Augen, die sind ja jetzt offen.

  Wenn du auf der Suche nach dir selbst bist – ich glaube nicht, dass du dich irgendwo finden wirst. Du handelst und lebst einfach, bis sich die Frage auflöst. Wenn du kannst, gehe auf eine lange Reise. Nicht deinetwegen, sondern wegen aller Menschen, die du treffen wirst.

  Versuche so viele wie möglich zu verstehen und vergiss dich selbst bei jeder Gelegenheit.

Sorry guys, we haven’t got enough inches

This is an excerpt from a lecture Alan Watts held in the Seventies. We are still that stupid today, perhaps even more so


“Somebody once suggested, by saying that thought is a means of conceiving truth despite the fact that it’s an extraordinarily useful faculty. But in quite recent weeks we’ve had an astounding example of the way mankind can be bamboozled by thoughts.

There was a crisis about gold and the confusion of money, in any form whatsoever, was wealth, is one of the major problems from which civilization is suffering because way back in our development when we first began to use symbols to represent the events of the physical world we found this such an ingenious device that we became completely fascinated with it. In ever so many different dimensions in life, we are living in a state of total confusion between symbol and reality.

And the real reason why in our world today, where there is no technical reason whatsoever why there should be any poverty at all. The reason it still exists is people keep asking the question, “where’s the money going to come from?” Not realizing that money doesn’t come from anywhere and never did, except if you thought it was gold and then of course to increase the supply of gold (use that to finance all the world’s commerce) prosperity would depend not upon new processes for growing food in vast quantities or getting nutrition out of the ocean … no, it depends on discovering a new gold mine.

And you can see what a nonsensical state of affairs that is because when gold is used for money it becomes, in fact, useless. Gold is a very useful metal for filling teeth, making jewelry and maybe covering the dome of the capitol in Washington but the moment it is locked up in vaults in the form of ingots it becomes completely useless. It becomes a false security, something that people cling to like an idol: like a belief in some kind of big daddy-o god with whiskers who lives above the clouds. All that kind of thing diverts our attention from reality. We go through all sorts of weird rituals … the symbol in other words gets in the way of a practical life.

So, you remember the great depression. I expect a number of you around are old enough to remember the great depression when one day everybody was doing business and things were going along pretty well and the next day there were bread lines.

It was like someone came to work and they said to him “sorry chum but you can’t build today, no building can go on, we don’t have enough inches.” He’d say, “what do you mean we don’t have enough inches, we’ve got wood haven’t we? We’ve got metal, we’ve even got tape measures.” He’d say, “yeah, but you don’t understand the business world, we just haven’t got enough inches. We’ve used too much of ‘em.”

And that’s exactly what happened when we had the depression. Because money is something of the same order of reality as inches, grams, meters, pounds or lines of latitude and longitude. It is an abstraction. It is a method of book keeping to obviate the cumbersome procedures of barter. But our culture, our civilization is entirely hung up on the notion that money has an independent reality of its own.”

The lecture is called “The Veil of Thoughts” and you can find it here

A completely different perspective


 How about a completely different perspective? Imagine yourself as an imperialist, as someone who pushes European values called democracy, free market, political self-determination on people whose national and cultural ways of thinking have no room for these concepts. Not, mind you, because they are – a despicable term – backward, but because their society developed along different paths. They simply have different values.

  A Westerner (a collective term that is just as racially bizarre, shallow and useless as the terms Asian or African), unable to recognize those different values, considers the absence of the only set of values he recognizes to be primitive. He exercises himself, huffs and puffs, schemes and oppresses until he has created a framework that he can recognize as culture. Of course it is, in many cases, a framework that because it is unnatural requires an inordinate and inhuman amount of effort to maintain.

  The prevailing feeling – and it is a feeling that most of us who are born in the “civilized” world of the West share – is that the world is something that has to be fought against, that there will be inhumanly strong resistances against whatever we do and that, in order to be properly human, we constantly need to be on our guard and constantly need to fight.

  So we fight. We fight against hunger, against corruption, against someone else, against ourselves if there is nothing else to fight. And we consider this constant state of paranoia and agitation to be normal – if it wouldn’t be there, we’d have to invent it. We create purposeless rules and declare them the law and then find ways to circumvent the law because after all the law is purposeless and cruel. But we cannot change it to something more humane, because that would be cheating and it would deprive the generations of people who have insinuated themselves into the law of their rightful income and livelihood. Just imagine if everyone could make up their own laws? What sort of world would that be?

  Yet that is exactly what happens. Every single person makes up their own laws, depending on their experiences and influences, their dreams and their frustrations.

  I wish that people would understand – and not fear – that we live in a complete and beneficent state of permanently fluctuating anarchy. That we need not fear those numbers (of debts or statistics) or those ideologies, but that we simply need to understand and adapt.