Conversations on Theft

I remember being very jealous of my cousins who had these amazing toys that we were never given. I must have been about five years old, and I palmed one of the small shiny toys into my pocket at their house and delivered it safely to the darkness of my cupboard when I got home.

I must have tried to be nonchalant about my new possession but knowing myself I was admiring it by peering into the cupboard every opportunity I had.  We arrived home from a Sunday lunch at their home and by early that evening my crime had been uncovered by my mother. My father came to know about it and I got a hiding with his belt. What I do remember is not the pain on my skin but the injury to my ego. I thought we were better than other people, that I deserved more, and that they had so many toys, so one less would not reduce their chance of happiness.

But this one shiny toy in my cupboard was to be my key to happiness. Something I stumbled upon and that really belonged to me.

It took a few days to understand why in fact it did not belong to me. It took a few more decades to understand why the key to happiness was not as complicated as I thought. It is in us all, and does not need  a key to be unlocked. We need to free ourselves of the chains of possession to be happy.

I remember having to return the shiny toy. I remember feeling it was the end of happiness. I do not remember when I returned it. I do not remember what I said. I do remember my face was downcast, and that I had done something really bad. I knew that. There are very few occasions that I felt so downcast after doing something bad since then.

It was a simple lesson of the belt. Thou shalt not steal. But it included thou shalt not covet. And it set me on a complicated course from an early age to understand the source of happiness.

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