“This kingdom belongs to no one” — why you’re better off thinking that you don’t own much

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

Recently I watched a new version my childhood favourite movie The Lion King. From the whole movie I remember this kind of conversation between Simba and his father Mufasa (paraphrasing from memory so not accurate representation of what was said):

Mufasa: wherever the sun lands is our kingdom.

Simba: all of this is our kingdom?

Mufasa: this kingdom belongs to no one. It is our duty as lions to protect it from danger.

For me this passage succinctly summarizes the true philosophy of material possessions: nothing really belongs to us. Everything that has been granted to us is a rental. It is inevitable, sooner or latter, that whatever we believe is ours will be taken away from us.

Suppose you managed to build a massive fortune (imagine yourself coming out of sales room where you have sold your business for 100 million dollars). Here are some ways Fortune can take it away from you:

· You are informed that a spelling of your name on the big business sales transaction does not match the name on your passport thus rendering your property superfluous and is seized by the authorities.

· You invested money into bitcoin that has lost its value completely.

· A malicious attack is carried out by North Korean regime to steal money from your bank account.

· You buy a mansion, which becomes destroyed, in massive fire.

I know theses examples seem far-fetched, but even if you’re lucky enough not to suffer any such losses in life, ultimately you will die and that is guaranteed (I’m assuming that even if science figures out a way to preserve us for infinity, the form we will take will likely strip us of who we essentially are). The ultimate certain loss of life puts all other possessions in perspective. Remember that nobody wants to put gold in your coffin unless perhaps you ask for it, which is pointless.

Does that mean we are not to strive, or enjoy the bounties of life? Certainly not. What can be owned is owned on temporary basis and should be enjoyed on that basis as well. But as you do so make sure what can never be taken away from you, i.e. your character and virtues, are always cultivated and at the command. If you can render a useful service, reduce suffering, save the planet or make someone happy whilst accumulating wealth — great, keep going but never at the expense of your true purpose in life.

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