Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Responsibility 101

So the good news is that we have a free will. Tyranny and dilemmas are basically illusions. We have the power to manifest and perceive a multitude of options in our life circumstances, and whenever we hear ourselves saying "I had no choice!" or "There's no way out of this!" or "I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't," we can from this point on recognize that we are lying to ourselves when we reduce ourselves to such a state of misperception of the truth of our lives and our being. We are building a set of shared language with which to undertake the good work of self mastery, here. Freedom, we have said, is a quality of the will, and the free will has the power to manifest and percieve options from which to choose in the exercise of its freedom. So what about responsibility? Well, responsibility is the cornerstone of freedom. How's that for a countercultural definition? You see, in our culture, responsibility has been given a very bad reputation. It commonly carries conotations of fault, blame, and punishment. It is a thing we try to pin on criminals. It is the hot potato that nobody wants to be stuck with, so it gets tossed to some sucker way on down the line. Passing the buck is a pretty old theme. Look at the first few chapters of the bible--Adam's not responsible--go check with Eve; but she's not responsible--go check with that serpent over there. Then a few chapters later, Cain asks, Am I my brother's keeper?--Ten minutes after having slaughtered the poor bloke! Avoiding responsibility goes way back, but that avoidance is rooted in a basic misunderstanding of what responsibility actually is. Let it be known that I am here to rehabilitate the notion of responsibility, and to restore it to its proper place in the shaping of the mature person. As long as folks mistake responsibility as the main criterion for blameworthiness and the stamp of judgment, they will logically avoid it at all costs. The bad news is that the cost of avoiding responsibility is very high. It requires of a person that s/he basically stay asleep to hi/r higher self. It requires of a person that s/he maintain an illusion of "innocence" in order to avoid judgment and punishment. It requires a person to store up shame and guilt for actions and choices, and to suffer the literally sickening consequences of such inward holding. It requires of a person that s/he refuse to acknowledge choice, and claim about hi/r actions that they were coerced--he made me do it! I had no choice! --not realizing that the very declaration of innocence and denial of choice places a person in the tyrant's shackles. The "innocence" of the lower self fleeing "responsibility" is the false innocence of the "victim consciousness," and one cannot get much further from a real experience of freedom than that. Responsibility is the capacity to perceive the choices of one's own free will and to consider one's actions with a view to self improvement. Responsibility is the recognition of one's choices as causes of one's life experience and includes an acknowledgement of their effects. In the model of self mastery, responsibility carries no weight of shame or burden of condemning judgment. Those characteristics represent a misunderstanding of the meaning and power of responsibility. It is actually through the avoidance of responsibility that we condemn ourselves to be victims, without a choice, wills bound and denied, tyrannized. Not a pretty picture, eh? Taking responsibility instead and in truth is the road to freedom, because the one who is responsible is conscious of the choices s/he has made and is making. When you become conscious of your choices, you can decide if you want to make them again. Perhaps the life experiences I am generating by my choices are a disaster! Well, no time to waste wallowing in guilt and shame!. I can acknowledge what I am doing and choose something else! And, I can make amends with new choices if my behavior caused harm. While I certainly don't insist that I should grovel for the rest of my life if I have hurt someone, at the same time, it goes a long way to restoring balance with the universe when, after having done harm, I apologize for my role in a shared experience and take conscious steps to make better choices in that relationship as well as others. Pride has buried many a relationship at this point. Pride presumes that what it wants must be good and right for all, because it wants it. Pride consequently resists responsibility for having done harm, because it refuses to consider a harmful result as a possible outcome of its wanting. Thankfully, pride is not a person, but a defense, and a kind of fear, and it can yield to introspection, and the practice of responsibility. I can create a new kind of experience based on different choices, when I recognize both my power to choose as well as the choices I have made, and their effects. When I recognize that I am responsible for my life experiences, that is when my light is shining brightly for all to see. Tomorrow, we can finally give shape to "the triangle" of self mastery.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Patrick said...

The idea that tyranny is an illusion is a pretty hard sell to the kid on the streets of Iraq whose father was tortured and murderd by Saddam Hussein. Do you really believe Saddam's hatred is an illusion?

1:57 PM  
Blogger Gil :-) said...

It is a hard sell, the way you put it here, I agree! Tyranny is certainly no illusion when a tyrant is trying to kill you, that's for sure. I'm also quite certain that the emotion of hatred, so liberally expressed here on planet earth, is quite palpable. So we're in agreement there too.

I do believe, rather, that the tyranny of which I speak is the internal process where the will, free in its essence, not by right, but by nature, is self-suppressed in a manner that generates the mis-perception of a lack of choice. The free will is a choice factory. When exercised in a healthy manner, it reads circumstances and generates choice. When exercised in a pathological victim-consciousness manner, choice is overlooked, and that person plays the role of the victim of circumstance.

I believe that we choose the circumstances of our birth, our parentage, and our culture, for the opportunities they afford us to pursue our developmental course of study. Now admittedly, that is a pretty hard sell to someone in the awful circumstances you describe, but I'll bet that if you check in with the immortal soul of that kid you described, he will concur. We are all volunteers here. Even when we are being rolled over by the enemy tanks, we can still orient ourselves in the circumstances to love or to hate, to pray for our enemies or to shoot back at them, or perhaps to try both! Under any set of choices we might generate in a given set of circumstances, we are free to the extent that we take responsibility for our choices, and we are shackled to the extent that we play the victim.

Now I certainly don't expect everybody to believe that we choose the circumstances of our present lives. I would say, though, that when you do perceive that to be the case, one will see things in a new light. Further, if you live your life with that understanding, your experience of your essential freedom will expand.

8:54 PM  

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