Generally, what can help you learn a language is something that's largely the opposite; not reading too much into its grammar and idiomatics. And in this particular example, "being near something means to have it" is not even the correct literal interpretation.
The у of у него есть can only roughly be translated as "by"; it's not quite the same у that denotes spatial proximity. What I mean is: consider John chopped wood with his axe vs. John chopped wood with his father. The latter can be rephrased as John and his father chopped wood [together]; with the former, you can only do that as a joke. In the same way, there are usages of у that can be replaced with a synonymous preposition, возле, and there are those that cannot. Thus У реки есть гостиница "there is a hotel by the river" and У реки есть приток "the river has a tributary" may look grammatically the same, but they're intuitively different to a Russian speaker, and the test is that you can also say Возле реки есть гостиница while saying *Возле реки есть приток would be a case of "John and his axe chopping wood together". Just like English has, as it were, a separate with denoting instrumentality (which is a usage of "with" that doesn't exist in Russian), so does Russian have a separate у denoting ownership.
You could argue, of course, that there must have been an earlier stage when this usage of у hadn't yet been grammaticalised, and so one did speak of "having" something in terms of "being near" something. But here's the tricky thing about у: it's slightly narrower in meaning than возле, in that it can only express proximity to something that is, for all practical purposes, completely immovable; a part of the fixed scenery of life. Thus when applied to a person, it would mean something like the French chez — "at X's place", which was presumably then generalised to mean "in the domain of X's possessions".
By the way, the verb "to have" is itself a late invention in Indo-European languages. PIE itself is believed to have expressed ownership in a manner more similar to modern Russian, but using the dative: thus in Schleicher's fable, we have *h₂áu̯ei̯ h₁i̯osméi̯ h₂u̯l̥h₁náh₂ né h₁ést — literally "a sheep, to whom wool was not" — meaning "a sheep that had no wool". The English have and the (surprisingly unrelated) Latin habeō both started out as verbs for taking; Spanish even went through this shift once more — relegating haber to a purely auxiliary function and adopting tener, originally "to hold", as the verb for actual "having". But, as the song goes, to have is not to hold; and in the case of Russian, to be near something is not to have it.