We operate as if purchasing an object changes something fundamental within it. It is ours now. This is my water bottle. My television. My phone.
But what about the object has actually changed?
My items work just the same for you as they do for me
I am reading a book from the library right now. The same words are on the same pages whether I am reading it or you are. Just like if you took my phone and replaced my contact list with yours, it would work the same for you as it does for me. The book is not going to miss its friends after a week and run back to the library. Sorry I had to be the one to break it to you, but this is not Toy Story.
Physical proximity does not equate ownership
My water bottle is on my desk right now. But if you wanted to use it, you could. The phrase ‘my water bottle’ is meaningless. It is ‘a water bottle.’ It does not cease to be a water bottle when you try to use it. Nothing about it changes. This is the point. Material objects exist independently of their owners, just as they exist independently of everyone else. Just because I have consumed water from this one specific bottle a thousand times does not mean it works better for me than it would for you, or that I struggle to use water bottles that are not this one.
Ownership is illusion
When I sit and read in a coffee shop, I put my phone on the table. People do not come by and take it. Not because there is some special relationship between my phone and me, but because an unspoken agreement exists that you should not take other people’s things. There are no automatic consequences for someone who would take it. You might point to laws and police, but they can only do so much. Hang out in a European train station and don’t watch to your bags. The unspoken agreement does not exist there. Those guys who stole your laptop have no consequences, only a new laptop.
Familiarity does not equate ownership
The main struggle people face when trying to give things away is the memories contained within those objects. These are an illusion too. Almost every kid has some kind of stuffed animal that she takes everywhere. Chances are you had one. Take this jumble of cotton and fabric away from her though, and she will lose her mind. Adults do the same thing, just not with stuffed animals. Look at a few objects in your bedroom and you will find things that you have not used for a year, but would not give away because of the meaning it has or the memories it holds.
The feeling of loss we get when we lose our bear, our favorite shirt, or our favorite cup, is us personifying that object. It does not have feelings—you do, but they cannot be thrown away because they are in your mind, not the object. You can always find a new cup, if you want to.
Yoda said that attachment leads to jealousy and greed, but we can deal with this by, “[Training] yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”
But Yoda was wrong (yeah, I said it). You cannot let go, because nothing is yours to begin with.