"God, who hath given the world to men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life and convenience."
- John Locke, Second Essay Concerning Civil Government
Yesterday, Helen and I read the above quote in our study of the United States Constitution. John Locke asserted that life and liberty are secure only so long as the right of property is secure. Locke then pointed out that, in Genesis 1:28, man received the commandment from his Creator to subdue the earth and have dominion over it.
Our textbook, The 5000 Year Leap, states concerning property rights:
It is obvious that if there were no such thing as "ownership" in property, which means legally protected exclusiveness, there would be no subduing or extensive development of the resources of the earth. Without private "rights" in developed or improved property, it would be perfectly lawful for a lazy, covetous neighbor to move in as soon as the improvements were completed and and take possession of the fruits of his industrious neighbor.
Locke makes the point that all property is "an extension of a person's life, energy, and ingenuity...to destroy or confiscate such property is, in reality, an attack on the essence of life itself."
Without protection of basic property rights, individuals quickly learn that the fruits of their labors may be taken away by unscrupulous neighbors. This, in turn, produces a culture devoid of any incentive to work or to improve one's situation.
Yesterday's lesson seemed timely in light of my recent resolution to subdue the clutter taking over my house. In the 30 Days of Dominion post, I confessed to having once been a "cleanie." Now, however, I am a definite "messy." What happened? Well, what happened was something very like what John Locke described, only on a small-scale, domestic level.
Over the years, I learned that if I cleaned out a closet or work area, someone else would notice the extra storage space or tidy work area and decide that it perfectly suited their own needs. Eventually, I lost the incentive to try to stay on top of the mess. Why put time and labor into tidying things up, if someone else was just going to come along and pile their clutter everywhere?
The home was supposedly my "domain," but, in reality, it was mine mostly insofar as it needed cleaning. How the "cleaned up" space was used usually seemed to be someone else's prerogative.
Of course, that was clearly a bad attitude on my part. Just because someone else is inconsiderate, that does not free me from the mandate to endeavor to "exercise dominion" over my little corner of the world. But, that said, can I offer a bit of advice to those of you who live with someone who is responsible for the day-to-day running of a home?
Put your stuff away. When Mom spends all morning decluttering the kitchen counter, and you come in that afternoon and pile your books, mail, car parts, computer, and snack bar wrappers on the freshly-cleaned counter and leave all that mess there indefinitely, you are communicating that Mom's work did not have any value. That is so demotivating, folks.
If Mom devotes a week to cleaning off the bookshelves in the living room, do not - when you discover two feet of free shelf space - I repeat, DO NOT immediately commandeer that space to display your collection of owl pellets. A better response when you notice that the shelves have been cleaned would be to simply say, "Wow! That looks great!" - without turning your mind instantly to how you can fill up that extra two feet. Please, let Mom enjoy some "dominion" over the clutter for a few days!
When you discover that Mom has cleaned out the junk drawer in the kitchen - that she has thrown away two years' worth of fingernail clippings, a dozen dried up markers, an empty tape dispenser, and something that looked like a petrified Tootsie Roll - DO NOT start anxiously digging through the trash can. Just don't do it. Trust me: it is okay for Mom to be Queen of the Junk Drawer.
Many women choose to "exercise dominion" in jobs outside the home. Me, I'd be thrilled if I could figure out how to "exercise dominion" as far as the edge of the porch.
I think a little respect would go a long way toward helping me do just that.