I don't know about you, but I like learning lessons from the media I consume, whether it be movies, songs, blogs, or even instagram feeds. You could say I'm easily inspired :). Sometimes, though, the lessons aren't so obvious. And other times, the lessons are plain to see, but it's unclear whether I agree with them. Which brings me to this quote from Disney's 2019 version of Aladdin:
Jasmine: "You cannot just break into a palace like you own the place!"
Aladdin: "If you don't have anything, you have to act like you own everything"
Is he right?
It's well known that owners protect and endure better than renters or employees.
Some people are 'renters' of everything - using, but never improving; receiving, but never investing. Others, in an effort to escape the 'renter' mentality, may buy a home or start a business. But it's only a counterfeit solution.
See, if I own this, but don't own that, then I only behave like an owner with 'this.' My time, effort, and money goes to this while I continue to act like a renter with that. 'That' doesn't belong to me, after all. It's not my responsibility.
But who does my family 'belong' to? Who 'owns' my neighborhood, city, church, or planet?
We know that in this sense, society needs more 'owners' - more people stepping up to care and to matter, more safe places for people to belong. But if we believe ownership comes as a result of money or position, and responsibility comes as a result of ownership, we'll never get there. We'll keep acting like renters in all the areas where money and position matter little - which happen to be all the areas that matter most.
We'll keep treating our families, friends, communities, and earth like someone else's problem and like something that's replaceable. Just like a renter would do.
The solution, as Aladdin proposes, is to own nothing at all.
I wonder, "But wouldn't that make us renters again?"
And I find the answer comes down to who the owner is.
If you own this and I don't, it's your responsibility, not mine.
If no one owns this, then perhaps we will find ourselves competing for ownership, or if neither of us are interested in owning it, we'll either do nothing at all or try to find someone else to deal with it.
But if no one owns anything at all - if there IS no ownership to be had one way or another - we begin to take responsibility and reverence for everything. We begin to realize that the narrative was never meant to be "it's the owner's responsibility," but "we're all in this together."
Interestingly, this is not idealism or some alternate universe hypothesis; this is actually the natural framework that flows if we believe God to be the true owner and people to be stewards.
CEOs salivate at the thought of inspiring low level employees to act like owners while simultaneously refusing give away any meaningful amount of actual ownership in the company. Unfortunately for the high ups in the world, the masses are only owners to the extent that the owners are actually renters.
If money or power means ownership, "we're all in this together" doesn't exist. But if from top to bottom we acknowledge an Owner that we are all held accountable to, the sky is the limit on our collective buy-in.
For many of us, it's intuitive to apply this mindset to our planet, as many have come before us and will come after us. Not too many of us are caught up in trying to conquer the universe & achieve world domination (i.e., competing for planet ownership). Conversely, not too many of us, at least not in the 21st century, are just apathetically polluting our environment and waiting for someone else to do something about it (i.e., deferring planet ownership / living like renters). Most of us are in this healthy middle, where because no one owns earth and no one will, and yet the earth is of immense value, we can all share responsibility, we can all contribute and be caretakers. We can all be 'owners' in a mental, emotional, and relational sense when we refuse to let money serve as our lens for ownership.
What Aladdin is highlighting is that this principle applies to everything - not just the planet or a palace in Ababwa. And what I'm pointing out is that Aladdin's proposition is not only in line with the Christian worldview, but perhaps is only possible from that worldview.
What say you??
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