Have you ever seen a person lavish great care and affection on his or her car? Pamper it with endless baths, buy it the best accessories, react with indignation, even rage, if anything threatens to scratch its pearly-smooth surface?
In these cases, the car owner seems to be treating the car not like a thing, an inanimate object, but like a person.
When we treat things as if they are people, putting great amounts of energy into them, there’s not much energy left over to put into the people in our lives.
And when we don’t have energy for people, we can end up treating them as if they are things. Inanimate objects, existing to make our lives more convenient and pleasant. Do this for me. Do that for me. Why so slow? Can’t you look any better than that? Get out of my way. All examples of treating people like objects. (We’ve all done this on occasion. Regretting it later is a good sign :).
Cars are just one example of things being treated as if they are people. It’s possible to treat houses, guns, jewelry, closets of clothes, music collections or almost any possessions this way. People in wealthy, developed countries like the U.S. are especially prone to treating objects with the single-minded devotion that seems better suited to a special-needs child. Or anyone we care about.
Dollar-poor people (I was one of these for part of my life) are often better at treating people well, treating them like people. They tend to know that they need each other. Interdependence is the real currency of life, not expensive objects.
If that last statement feels hard to believe, consider the fact that you will die. Consider what you will need as you are dying. Will you need a curvy red Corvette? Or will you need a human being holding your hand?
Of course we need possessions in order to live. And we do need to take care of those possessions. But treating things as if they are people creates a poor quality of life. It creates a cold-hearted world. It escapes nobody in the vicinity that the car (or other object) is the center of concern. It escapes nobody that the cherished object is crowding them, the human beings, to the margins of the picture. Treating things like people over the long run breeds loneliness, isolation and pain. It creates lives impoverished of what matters.
Is there anyone in your life who treats things like people, or people like things? How rich do you feel, yourself, in the things that matter most in life?