Daily Touch of Inspirations

December 4th: You don't own that

Ryan Holiday, The 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

Anything that can be prevented, taken away, or coerced is not a person's own — but those things that can't be blocked are their own. Epictetus, Discourses, 3.24.3


The conservationist Daniel O'Brien has said that he doesn't "own" his several-thousand-acre buffalo ranch in South Dakota, he just lives there while the bank lets him make mortgage payments on it. It's a joke about the economic realities of ranching, but it also hints at the idea that land doesn't belong to one individual, that it will far outlast us and our descendants. Marcus Aurelius used to say that we don't own anything and that even our lives are held in trust.

We may claw and fight and work to own things, but those things can be taken away in a second. The same goes for other things we like to think are "ours" but are equally precarious: our status, our physical health or strength, our relationships. How can these really be ours if something other than us — fate, bad luck, death and so on — can dispossess us of them without notice?

So what do we own? Just our lives — and not for long.

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom Perseverance and Art of Living

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