To enjoy things is not to possess them or to be possessed by them, but to use them. The joy of anything is the use of it. The joy of anything is to take it and make it into something more.
I said to the Master, “Tell me about things. Is it wrong to pray for things?” The Master said, “It is wrong not to pray for things. If prayer is right, then there is no aspect of living that we should not pray about.”
“Pray about things, and you will find that you have the things you need, and you have also the attitude toward things you need.”
Then I thought about things. I saw that it is futile to pray for the possession of things, for things can never be possessed.
Nothing can be possessed. We have the use of things, but we never have the possession of them, however many titles to them we may deposit with the recorder of deeds, however many locks and strongboxes we may use for hiding them. There is nothing that is ours to keep. Not one thing. Sooner or later, we will have to give it away or it will be taken away. Everything. Even our body. Even our mind. Everything was the gift of life. And life asks it back. According to the greatest teacher of all, life asks it back with interest; life expects it to have grown under our care. Life asks what we have done with what was given us. Have we turned it into a trash heap, or into a park?
Life is for us to be alive in. Life is not to build a castle on. A castle is a vast pile of stones, damp, gloomy, and usually uncomfortable. After a short time nobody wants to live there anymore; then it becomes a ruin.
Life is to grow a garden in. A garden changes a bare patch of land into a place of trees and flowers and grass and fountains splashing into pools and singing birds and buzzing insects.
Life is not a thing of stones for stones, but a thing alive for things alive-for mayflies and pine trees and hummingbirds, and you and me.
A gardener knows what a garden is like. A gardener knows that no one possesses a garden.
No one owns the land. In a well-built house the landlord is merely a lodger-with rooms for a week, a year, five years, fifty years.
Generations of mocking birds sing in the branch tops. Generations of moles tunnel the lawns, smelling out the grubs that live here too. The rabbits mock at the fences; the pokeweed lords it in the lot corner; the flower garden belongs no more to the gardener than the bees that sup the flowers. In the limestone of the walls are the remains of shellfish that swam here once, and perhaps … the gardener is content to plant his trees and not trouble himself as to who will lie in their shade.
Till the ground, tend the plant, pluck the flower as you wish. But the garden grows with spring and rests with fall.
You may take the flower, dry it, and place it in a glass case – but it is not the flower. You have only a bit of colored straw, slowly fading, slowly powdering. Keep it long enough and you will have only colorless dust.