Children can be taught to share things, but they still have a definite sense of this is mine and this is yours. It seems to be in the natural order. Who would try to wrestle away an antelope haunch from a lion? And yet the “ownership society” of yore has somehow morphed into the “sharing society” of today.
My daughter doesn’t own a car; she uses mass transit and Uber to get around her Boston-area stomping grounds. While I still own a vast pile of vinyl and CDs and DVDs, the modern music-lover rents music one play at a time from Spotify. You don’t even have to own the shirt on your back. You can “Rent the Runway” instead. And you don’t have to hunt down your own antelope at the store; you can subscribe to a healthy diet and have it all delivered in boxes.
I don’t lament these changes, but it makes me wonder what is it now that makes me me. It used to be intimately tied up with what was mine. But now neuroscience teaches me how little even my thoughts may be my own, and age begins to whisper to me how little my body may be my own.
There is a shape, and there is a sense of self, but everything else seems up for grabs:
Behind the rock is a standing wave that will last
as long as water flows, or until rock dissolves.
A form of water—the wave is no particular water—
exchanging its substance moment by moment.
Just as I pour water into me, and let it flow out.
Just as air comes in with the in breath and goes
with the out breath. As cells arise, grow and die,
stripped back down into elements of new growth.
Just as thought comes and goes in mind, memory,
these sensations, pattern of a half-glimpsed face,
childhood fears, a progression of guitar chords.
Nothing within me remains me, except this shape.