Once upon a time there was no ownership.
There was, as now, life and death, the strong and the weak, but if you took, you always gave something in return. Just as in-breath is followed by out-breath, so receiving was always followed by give away, or giving back. Sometimes this was as simple as giving praise, or thanks. Sometimes it was physical action, such as providing food or care, or the guarding of the young and tender. This applied both to other human beings and to trees, animals, plants, rocks, rivers, springs, fish, insects and all manner of earthly life.
Then there came to the land that was loved and cared for people who knew only ownership. They wanted to have, to hold and to take. Because they did not want others to have what they thought was theirs, they were obliged to defend what they wanted. Out of this defence grew aggression. Soon the ownership people got aggressive in advance of defence… just in case someone else made the mistake of taking what the ownership people thought was theirs. The strongest in the owning people got to have lots of what they wanted to own. The weakest got less. Soon the weakest began to feel that in failing to get, and own a lot, they were not as important or as good as the strong. But they wanted to be. So they tried to get, and to own, in any way possible, including aggression.
The land to which the ownership people came got to be owned. It got to be fought over, occasionally loved and appreciated, but mostly it, and life both above and beneath its surface, was taken, used, discarded and hoarded. The people who practiced give-away found that give-away too was taken.
Some people who lived give-away maintained the vision of that way of life even in the midst of Ownership. They called it The Way of Beauty to remind themselves, and perhaps others, of the loveliness of a life of praise and gratitude. They kept alive a way of being that was difficult to live in the midst of great having, taking, holding, hoarding and warring. They found it was better to keep the Way of Beauty not quite secret, but not quite open either. Ownership wanted everything, even what it did not understand. If it was something that it could not actually hold, hoard or make use of, then it wanted to be sure that no one else could have it, so Ownership took the life of others who might have something that Ownership could not understand.
In time, Ownership became the dominant way of life. With so much owning and warring and making of more and more things to own, life on earth grew further and further away from the Way of Beauty. More and more people born into the way of ownership realized their own discontent but did not know how to alter things. So some of the people who had quietly maintained the Way of Beauty agreed to be born among those who were steeped in Ownership. As children they tried to live give-away but often found that they had just the same experiences that they remembered from the time when the Ownership people first came to the land of the Way of Beauty. Many of these people steeped themselves in Ownership, but one by one, sometimes in partnership and from time to time in great gatherings or shared experiences, there came a stirring, an impulse to change or to bring about change.
These Way of Beauty in the midst of Ownership people were rarely clear and strong. Most of them had grown into a mixture of public Ownership and private Beauty. So even though they wanted to live differently they weren’t quite sure what the Way of Beauty meant. Was it enough to live it privately or in little communities? Could they hold on to possessions and still live give-away? These people wanted to live more beautifully but they found themselves having to defend their private Beauty against the aggression of Ownership. In short, they were thoroughly muddled, uncertain and sometimes a bit cross about not really belonging to Ownership or the Way of Beauty.
Mostly these people had forgotten the magic of praise, or wonder. But when magic struck, they remembered, not in words, but in ways of being or of feeling. Still they vacillated or cast doubts among each other or upon themselves. And so it came about that the Way of Beauty people born in the midst of Ownership began to journey to places on earth where the Way of Beauty was still remembered, or where beauty itself was so great that praise rose spontaneously. In this way these people grew stronger, more certain, and yet still they lived in part by Ownership. They tried to reason or think their way out of their double world, but that did not bring them to their inner wisdom. How to remind them of wholeness, of the inter-connectedness of all things, of the possibility of finding beauty within ownership?
Of course, only wholeness itself can remind anyone of the whole, so when these people were sufficiently willing or sufficiently desperate to abandon the notion of either/or, right/wrong, good/bad then there began the song of all the cells within the bodies of these people. Sometimes they listened; quite often they were caught unawares and heard or felt something that they could not explain. Best of all were the times when someone who remembered the Way of Beauty all the way through their being sang the songs of wholeness.
Then the people who knew the Way of Beauty but who had grown up in Ownership grew big and strong and beautiful. They were filled with peace. They knew more than they could speak. Then was it time for them to return to the lands that they had once loved and hear again the songs of praise that had once kept the Way of Beauty alive through all the cycles of the earth and stars.
This tale was written early in 2007 by Judith Seelig to speak, as she puts it, on behalf of all those people who still live the Way of Beauty despite the often rapacious presence of consumer interests in their landscape, and also to remind those of us who
are Western consumers that we have choice.