Mae gen i afal, what we would translate into English as “I have an apple,” literally means “There is an apple with me” in Welsh. In Celtic languages there is little concept of ownership, of “having” things. Things are not possessed by you; they are “with” you.
Imagine the shift in consciousness that would occur if our language suddenly didn’t support the possessive case. ~from Fruitflesh by Gayle Brandeis
I think this is one of the most profound shifts the human race could make – to shift from the idea of ownership to ‘being with’. What would happen to us, where we believe we own everything from goods, to natural resources, to the planet, to each other, if we were to realize we don’t own a thing…not even the days we have ahead?
It’s not like it’s a new idea – many cultures, not just the Celtic culture, have seen, and continue to see, things this way.
As I pondered this, I thought of how things would change if we humans realized we don’t own each other, if we realized this about our partners, our children, our lovers, our family, and not just our human family, but also other living beings, the earth, all of life.
I don’t own a thing. Everything that surrounds me is ‘with’ me.
When I see it this way, I no longer feel things hierarchically, but rather relationally.
When I see it this way, I feel connection, relationship, mutuality, and kinship.
When I see it this way, I feel reverence for the dignity, autonomy, and sovereignty of the ‘other’ I am with.
When I see it this way, I see you next to me, not across from me. I see you with me, side by side, walking together.
When I see it this way, especially in relation to the Earth, I feel a sense of awe. When I see it this way, I come to know the grandeur of the Earth and the fact that She gives me life. Without her, I would not exist.
Without each other, we would not exist.
Without you, I would not exist.
What a slippery slope the possessive case has been, and continues to be. Language is powerful. How we use it creates how we see the world, each other and ourselves.
How might this shift cause you to see things differently?
Image courtesy of Jipol by Creative Commons 2.0 license
14 Replies to “I Am With You”
Thank you for this. You are right this would be a profound shift – even just changing the words makes everything feel different. I am most struck by your assertion about how we don’t own our children. I’ve frankly always felt that way (have written about it a lot) and am always startled when people refer to hwo their children are “theirs.” I just don’t agree. I feel I am a channel for them to come through, both literally in birth and now in the growth to their maturity.
“Your children are not your children, they are the sons and the daughter’s of life’s longing for itself … they come through you but they are not from you and though they are with you they belong not to you.”
This song just popped into my head as I was writing. It is so true. Thank you, as always, for your beautiful, honest, radiant words.
“What a slippery slope the possessive case has been, and continues to be. Language is powerful. How we use it creates how we see the world, each other and ourselves.”
That possessive! Mine, mine, mine. Ownership is an unhappy illusion we perpetuate at our (and the Earth’s peril) – how much simpler (and threatening to our firm sense of Self) to take that ‘walking with’ or stewardship or ‘resting with me’ approach. Worked with gently, it can loosen knots of anguish.
I believe it to be a whole yoga in itself: in the end, I don’t “own” my own life or my own self… Everything is simply passing through, from one perspective. And yet, to get there, we do have to ‘own’ our life.
What a wonderful, mysterious journey not owning can take us on. Thank you, Julie
Julie, this blew my brain off into sooo many directions.
And Lindsey’s comment (Hi, Lindsey!) took me right to the part I’d rather not feel now (gulp) as “my” (grin) son is heading off for a fantastic adventure that it seems the Beloved hand-painted (“heading off “and “bye bye” being the parts that make my heart a bit clutchy – even while I’m VERY excited for him)…
The language thing – even though I’m a writer I forget this – so often – love how you wrote about it, Julie…and I remembered (thru reading your post) a time when this hit me hard — seems almost silly in the telling – but it was like everything you wrote here came home to my heart that day (and has been forgotten a million times since) —
I was in h.s. and lived near a very wealthy community – took a drive through it with my then-boyfriend and had this DEEP reaction — a body experience, really – of enjoying the glorious architecture – the beauty of it – and knowing that I did not need to possess it (or anything else) to relish and revel in its beauty…it was such a free-ing, opening feeling…sigh…thanks for this (and all your heart/mind opening thoughts)!!!
Lindsey, You write so beautifully of this ‘not-owning’ one’s children. Each being knowing its own sovereignty is such a beautiful thing. THank you for sharing those lyrics. Have heard them, but don’t remember which song.
Tom, Yes, a yoga in itself. You sum it all up with such a beautiful paradox of life…the dance between spirit and ego. Always know truth is here when paradox comes knocking.
Karen, not silly at all in the retelling. Such an amazing experience you had, and so relevant to all life’s moments. I bet ‘your’ son is going to have a wonderful time. I chuckled at our need to language the possessive to make things clear in communication and how we can hold it differently…there’s the paradox Tom wrote of.
“When I see it this way, I feel connection, relationship, mutuality, and kinship. ”
What a beautiful post Julie. Such a different way of seeing. An ancient way of relating to ourselves and all that is. Ah, To realize that language can shift our experience of life. Thank you for the reminder to be mindful of the words we use. May they become a portal to a renewed understanding of our inter-being.
Wow. I leap for joy at this shift. It would truly transform the world! Thank you for sharing your insight, and the wisdom of the Celts. It has expanded my day.
okay, a bit of a brain pretzel in play here. so i’m just gonna’ spill without regard for segues and such. . .
~ you know, this conjures up a memory, and, as memories go, there are positive and negative interpretations/applications. depends on the context, i suppose. anyway, when i was a wee lass, my dad was an executive in this company, and several people we knew worked for him. except that my mother made me say they worked “with” him. it’s one of those things that feels good when you say it in that context, but then i went an applied it to my life and it came out all wonky. came out more like taking a leadership role is bad. like the sunday school teacher was right: whatever i do well, there’s at least 2 other people out there who can do it just as well and likely better. so even though i have excellent leadership traits, i seldom use them any more for fear of being smacked down.
~ it IS an important shift, using the word “with”. when i read your post the first time, i felt this palpable sense of relief.
Julie: As always, so elegant, so rich, so poignant, so powerful, so beautiful, so you. And to think that you – the creator/dreamer/thinker/feeler of all this – is “with” me? Overwhelming, humbling, and so meaningful.
For me, the call to reverence and relationship vs. hierarchy, ownership, and power has impact that is so far reaching…in my own life and in the way I view my larger world(s).
I’m also aware how easy it is to sit in judgment of others – wishing they would see the world this way and, though true, this is my shift to make as well; ongoing, over and over again. Thank you for that gentle call.
And lastly (though hardly finally), I was captured by your opening words:
Mae gen i afal, what we would translate into English as â€œI have an apple,â€ literally means â€œThere is an apple with meâ€ in Welsh. In Celtic languages there is little concept of ownership, of â€œhavingâ€ things. Things are not possessed by you; they are â€œwithâ€ you.
My mind instantly goes to the story of Eve and the Apple. How things would have been understood throughout time so profoundly differently if we saw her as “with” the apple vs. taking something “she wasn’t allowed to possess.” Ramifications are vast and deep, still.
As always, thank you. You are “with” in such beautiful, stunning ways.
Oh yeeeeesssssssss. I think about this *all* the time raising a child. I speak of her as “my” daughter because I have not found another way to say it but I know (and have written) that she chose me as the conduit for her journey. I am here to love, support and learn from but there is no ownership. Every night as I close my eyes, I breathe my gratitude that her bright-light being is here spending time with me.
I am incredibly aware of possessives in language when I speak with her – have been since her birth. In my imperfection – and the nature of our language – she is incredibly fond of the words “mine” and “my”. It is a developmental stage in our culture but not in many others I’m sure. I hope that I can continue to grow into “with” and away from “my” and that my example will save her from the years of overcoming ego attachment that I still battle.
I will hold this post in my heart, hold space for this shift on small and grand scales. Thank you again for your vision, your heart, your shining light.
Oh – and the comments here always blow me away. What a conversation starter you are 🙂
The world will be a different place when we are able to ‘be with’ rather than ‘own’. Imagine how relationships would be if we did not try to own the people we fall in love with and could simply be with them instead; and be with the love rather than try to own the love and manipulate or control it.
My favorite boss of all time always told me that I didn’t work for him, I worked with him. And we worked so well together because he meant it. It was one of the most satisfying and empowering working relationships I have ever experienced.
Thank you for reminding us that who we are being has so much more value that what we own.
Yes, a wonderful reminder….that even “our apples” are borrowed…and all that we are with, will be returned someday…including time. Which reminds me of the importance of the now…and as I write this, I feel my own shoulders dropping from my ears back down to the rest of my body….so a shift …indeed. Thanks Julie.
Marjory- “An ancient way of relating to ourselves and all that is. ” Yes, such a beautiful way to put it. A way we knew before language that separated and controlled.
Emma-So lovely to know you are leaping for joy. It is a different way of seeing.
Jeanne – We need your leadership, beautiful woman! I could see how a wee youngin would make that application, but being with allows for your amazing talents to shine alongside all others. I don’t think anyone can be a good leader if they don’t hold those they are with as fully capable beings in their own right. Fugghedabout what you applied and bring that beauty right out into the world where we all get to drink from your cup of wisdom.
Ronna – thank you for your very kind and generous comment. Yes, “How things would have been understood throughout time so profoundly differently if we saw her as â€œwithâ€ the apple vs. taking something â€œshe wasnâ€™t allowed to possess.â€ Ramifications are vast and deep, still.” And we get to make this shift ourselves…that’s the only place we can make it…in our own minds and hearts. We can choose to see those things we were taught to believe, realize they are limiting and constricting, and shift them to a new perspective that honors all of life, rather than trying to control it.
Thank you for your sharing your wisdom here with me and others.
Alana – What an amazing gift you left here with us: “Every night as I close my eyes, I breathe my gratitude that her bright-light being is here spending time with me. ” Such an incredible way to hold being a mother to another divine being. The gift of it all is beyond belief. You are a treasure.
Rosaland – Wow. “One of the most satisfying and empowering working relationships I have ever experienced.” How powerful it is to make this shift AND mean it and live it. To live this shift is the key. Thank you for sharing your insights here. So glad you visited.
Robbie – Yes, all that we are with will be returned some day, including our bodies that allow us to live this life with so much feeling. I love that your own body responded to these words. Thank you for coming and sharing your insights.
Comments are closed.