What Am I Responsible For?

'Wisdom' and Other Words To Live By From a Wet-Behind-The Ears Oracle

'Wisdom' and Other Words To Live By From a Wet-Behind-The Ears Oracle

“Do you care about your environment?” asked an attactive young fellow standing on the sidewalk with a clipboard in his hand and a environmental organization’s logo on his t shirt. Clearly the politically correct answer was “Yes of course! What do I need to stop and listen to and what petition do I need to sign in order to demonstrate this to you?”

Seems you can’t get out of bed these days without hearing some question along those lines. There is always someone somewhere who has some cause or gripe or plea that we’re asked to take note of and respond to in some caring, compassionate and ‘responsible’ way. After all, isn’t it our responsibility to care? To be concerned and active citizens? To do everything in our power to make the world a better place? To offer any and all assistance to anyone in need and to never ever allow a friend or even a stranger to have one moment’s unhappiness if there is any way possible for us to prevent it? What good are we if we’re not spending ourselves in the service of others’ happiness or in the official betterment of our planet?

Recently a valued friend of mine conveyed to me that he felt I had not measured up to his standards for expressing appreciation for the ways that he’s been generous to me in the past. “I’m not feeling the love,” he said, noting the many ways that he feels he’s given to me without getting back. It was a painful thing to hear and it threw me into a tailspin of questioning myself and the ways I give to others, the ways that I extend myself to people and the ways that they judge my efforts to that end–and more important, the ways I judge my efforts to that end.

All of this has left me wondering who it is that we answer to and for what–and questioning whose happiness is it our job to try to create? How do we decide to whom or to what we’re obligated? That is . . . Who or what am I responsible for?

This question is one that many of you tend to keep asking because you have such a hard time hearing and accepting our answer–an answer that appears to fly in the face of most of what you hold to be true in your notions of what constitutes things such as ‘citizenship’ or ‘compassion’ or ‘community’ or ‘friendship’ or ‘love’.

You learn very early on that these ideas are intertwined with notions of self-sacrifice . . . that you cannot have these things you all desire–conection and relationship and belonging and mutual enjoyment–without putting everything and everyone ahead of yourself. Selflessness is held up as the highest ideal for your ties to one another and to your planet. You celebrate the proclaimed saints among you who give themselves in some public way to the improvement of others’ lives. And you learn remarkably well how to make demands on yourselves based on those examples that you have great difficulty trying to fulfill-and then to punish yourselves for failing to measure up.

It’s quite the vicious cycle. You convince yourselves that in order to feel a part of some community or family or kinship, that you must choose that community or family or kinship instead of your own joy or fulfillment . . . believing, quite paradoxically, that the inevitable disappointment or frustration that results from such a choice will lead you in the direction of the satisfaction that you seek.

You learn it from your parents, your teachers, your preachers, your government, your social and political affiliations, your employers, your friends and your lovers. It’s not surprising that you come to believe it because pretty much everyone is saying it to you in one way or another every time you turn around from the time that you are able to turn around until the moment you cease being able to turn around.

And all the while we continue to say, when asked, that you’ve got to start recognizing the simplest and seemingly most radical of truths: that nothing matters more than your peace of mind or your joy. Sometimes you kinda sorta get our answer half right and manage to believe that choosing your joy is the best choice–but then you shoot yourself in the foot by turning right around and demanding that everyone else approve of the choice you’ve made and validate it by being happy for you.

“But,” your legions of activists and humanitarians and public servants and fundraisers and friends and relatives all say, “What sort of hideous chaos would follow from thinking only of yourself? What global and national and civic and personal destruction of all that is dear to you would surely follow from the choice to be responsible ONLY for your own happiness?”

And we say . . . not so much as one hair or feather or scale on one endangered species’ head . . . not one creature’s wellbeing . . . not one shifting or warming or cooling or sinking centimeter of your lovely little planet . . . not your mother nor your father nor your sister nor your brother nor your friend nor your lover’s well being ultimately depends upon you.

And as long as we’re sticking our collective nonphysical necks out on the proverbial limb we’ll even go so far as to make the preposterous declaration that if in fact you all recognized this to be true and acted accordingly . . . if you all decided to be responsible only for your own joy and to leave others’ happiness to them . . . your families, your friendships, your communities, your organizations, your nations, your world . . . would function more smoothly and more happily and more easily and more successfully than any of your militant visionaires have ever imagined.

That is not to say that you should refuse to ever give anything to anyone or to participate in any effort that has meaning for you–but rather, you are encouraged to recognize and appreciate the real value of such giving is the joy that it gives you.

We get that this is a particuarly tough pill for you to swallow. It bucks some pretty longstanding and pervasive trends of thought. And it asks you to buck those trends in favor of your own joy when most of those around you are unwilling or unable to see the wisdom in that choice.

But your difficulty in accepting this, much less implenting it does make it any less true. You can choose who and what you are responsible for, and you can choose how to feel about that choice. Rather than choosing to work as hard as you can to ensure the happiness of others, choose to be as happy as you want the rest of the world to be. If you consistently and purposefully make that choice, you will create an increasingly wide and powerful sphere of influence in the world that you inhabit that others cannot help but respond to. You will in effect, create a benevolent bubble of joy around you that will benefit not only you, but every single one of those whose happiness you would like to see.

It’s as easy as you allow it to be. Admittedly that may sound like a contradiction in terms, but hey–you asked!

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About Dan

Published novelist, poety, essayist, photographer and college educator. Visit me at www.firstadream.com.

Posted on July 5, 2009, in Creating Your Own Reality, Deliberate Creating, Empowerment, Joyful Living, Love, Manifesting, Relationships, Self Development, Spirit, Well being, Wholeness. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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