‘You can’t take it with you’. As an undertaker this is an idiom I hear quite a lot. I’ve noticed it is interpreted in many different ways.
When we were kids we were lent a Sega Master System games console by our hairdresser. To this day I’m not really sure why. We didn’t ask to borrow it, and as far as I’m aware we didn’t generally have a stuff-library deal going with the people who snipped our locks. But it happened, and it was a pretty incredible few weeks.
We were never able to afford stuff like that, so having the opportunity to play video games in our own house was luxury. In fact it was the kind of thing dreams were made of. Until that point I had spent many hours reading the Argos Catalogue, just wishing one day I could earn enough money for something so cool.
Everything is Borrowed
The act of borrowing is endlessly fascinating to me.
Being given a possession that belongs to someone else with the faith that you will return it at some (sometimes agreed) point in the future. To start with, when someone lends you something it’s a real compliment. It conveys trust. I mean, if they are lending you one of their things with the hope that you will return it to them, they trust you. They trust that you’ll return it, and they trust that you won’t wreck it.
That’s a lot of trust to put in a human being.
When someone trusts you to borrow something how would you treat it?
Badly? You know, because it’s not yours, you didn’t pay for it so what does it matter?
Or with increased care? You respect it more because you want to make sure it goes back to its owner in the same condition?
Your answer to this probably depends a little on your character. But it would seem that most people want to return borrowed items in the same state or even better than they received them. Some people like to clean things so that they are left in a nicer state than when they received them. Or if use of an item results in natural wear and tear, they might even return it with a thank you gift attached.
I like to think that only a small percentage of people choose to borrow something and then treat it worse than they would if they owned it. Especially when we personally know the lender.
What about life?
Your body, your relationships, your time, your gifts, and your circumstances. Do you feel like the stuff of your life is yours?
I’m not sure how long we had the Master System. It felt like a long time, especially for me as a wee lad. It was long enough for me to wonder whether in fact our hairdresser might not actually want it back. I convinced myself that she had probably bought a Mega Drive by then.
Alas no. Soon enough it filtered through the parental news agency that we on had a few days before we needed to return the console.
The sense of urgency to complete Sonic the Hedgehog increased and things got serious.
I was focussed and clear on my objective:
To make the most of the time I had left in this dream period of life.
So I threw all my time and energy into it, and through frustration, sweat, and a small amount of RSI, finished off Dr Robotnik once and for all. When I think about the focus I managed to muster it really makes me think about the way we live our lives in general.
Do you live as if you’re borrowing this tiny fragment of time in this infinitesimally small piece of universe? Or do you live in such a way that reflects a belief that you own it and you’ll live forever?
Sorry, I realise that is a pretty heavy question. But the more I think about what it means to borrow rather than own, the more I think it focuses us and channels us towards living the most effective life we can create as individuals.
If everything feels borrowed we might care a little more with the perspective that comes from knowing that one day we need to give it back.
What if life, time, and our experiences here on Earth right now are all borrowed things?
What state are you aiming to leave things in once you’re done? Are you going to hand things back (or on) in a better condition than you got them so that someone else can have a go as well?
Have you actually made the most of what you’ve got, or will you only realise how much potential there is when you need to hand it back? What does having use of this life make possible?
What has changed because of the access you’ve had to life? How are things different because you used it? If you were to go back and start again is it something you should be trusted with or would it be better to lend it to someone else?
No one asks to borrow time on this planet and a body to knock about in. We just end up with it. I find that a pretty remarkable thought. And the time will come when we need to give it back. I ask these questions, not to make myself (or anyone else) feel bad, but to give us perspective. We all have autonomy over our choices.
We can be grateful for what we’ve been lent, showing that gratitude by using and respecting it. Or we can just leave it gathering dust on the shelf until that day when we realise that the hairdresser needs it back in a week. By the time we’ve cleaned it out, plugged it in, and worked out how to play there’s no time left to truly enjoy what was lying there waiting for us the whole time.
Over to You
Have you ever borrowed something only to realise that you hadn’t used it when the lender wanted it back? It always happens with books for me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please leave your response in the comments below.