There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that says “There’s nothing you can own that can’t be left out in the rain.” I can’t claim to know for sure that it is a proverb, but I’ve come across mention of it enough to accept that it is. It makes me think about what’s precious and what’s not. Paper can’t be left out in the rain. Your baby can’t be left out in the rain. Your car can. And your spoons and forks can. But what about your books. Or a painting by Caravaggio. What does the proverb mean?
Stones can be left out in the rain. Maybe rainboots. What about rainbows? But you can’t own a rainbow. You can barely take a photo of one. There’s something true about the proverb and saying it out loud is similar to the truth of chanting Sanskrit even when you don’t know its translation. They say the sounds tell the truth and that’s how you know it.
So when I say aloud, “There’s nothing you can own that can’t be left out in the rain,” I feel free. There’s some message that I’m not smart enough to understand here but my brain and soul understand. There’s a message of release, of not holding on, or not hoarding. A plate can be left out in the rain. And maybe your dog. So, you can own a plate or a dog, but by this logic you can’t own your baby. Or the paper that holds your thoughts.
But the more I turn this over, the slipperier it gets, like water through my hands. As I look around, I see that my house key could be left out in the rain. I own my car key. My husband can’t be left out in the rain, at least not for long. I definitely don’t own him. Plants on my deck, yes. I own them in a very part time way. But what else would I ever think to leave out in the rain?
But then my thinking shifts. The first time I remember dancing with abandon was out in the rain. I was also a hippie. We celebrated those things. But now time has passed and I’ve owned an average amount of stuff, now mostly letting it pass through my hands. But those things that I could leave out in their rain are the least important to me.
The more I try to understand this, the more I try to grasp it and define it, the further it slips. It’s like a waterfall rushing rushing to the ocean. You can put your hands in the water to hold it, but if you’re not careful, your hands will fill and push against your chest and soon you’re flowing to the sea as well.
So to conclude. I can’t own a baby or a husband. And I wouldn’t ever think of leaving them in the rain. The things that can easily sit outside in the rain don’t matter. And I don’t think much about plates or cars. Just babies and husbands and maybe dogs.