An Unowned Life – Chapter 1

It was sort of like deleting Facebook, but a bit more unconventional. That’s how I described it at the time. I wanted to normalize money’s rejection and make it clear who was dumping who. I couldn’t have known how unsuitable my passe attitude would turn out to be.

I had become in my middle-ish years something of an ownership skeptic. Stuff had never seemed too important to me (quite the oppositive) and filling up a bank account for the present and future had shown itself to be a shabby mission. I, too, was briefly excited by the prospect of decentralized power structures that the much-heralded blockchain revolution might bring. But as is now obvious, crypto in all its guises is merely an ownership society on cocaine.

In fact, pretty much every project in modern history meant to re-distribute power by creating a new means of accounting for and distributing it has failed by steering into the I have skid (including communism, via I have political power and organizational influence). Few recognized that the notion of Having was what was halving us into me and mine. Of course there were Buddhists and Taoists and others who rejected the acquisitive vision on spiritual grounds, but that allowed their choice to be effectively walled off by the admittedly unspiritual seekers of land, gold, and control. It took a conscientious objection from the normiest imaginable dissenter, and a rejection couched in terms the capital-fettered would not only understand but indigest.

When I decided to give up money, it became immediately clear that I must give up ownership as well. In a world where the socks on one’s feet have a resale price, transactable at a moment’s notice, there is little difference between possessing the title to a piece of land and paying rent in cash. The first problems were food and shelter (I held onto a set of clothes and a pair of shoes, but no longer considered them mine). There was a coffee shop on James Street that was willing to barter a couple sandwiches for a floor-cleaning and a little landscaping. One of the shop’s regulars overheard my conversation with the owner and was intrigued by the concept and offered me a place to stay for the week. Would long term thinking become impossible in a life without ownership in a world obsessed with it? Would I be able to find calm, independence, and security in all this? So far, it seemed worth the price to find out.

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