Responsibility

The Canadian philosopher John Hall, in his book Powers and Liberties, observed that the citizens of empires love to celebrate their privileges, and shirk their responsibilities. Privileges are those things that the empire guarantees us, such as tax breaks, welfare, low income housing support, and Medicare. Responsibilities are those tasks, unfortunately distributed throughout the citizenry at large, required to preserve the institutions and procedures that support the privileges. In America, some of our responsibilities include participating in public policy debates, paying our taxes, and serving jury duty.

Responsibilities are not politically popular. Few politicians will stand up and tell their constituents that they are failing their duties as the body politic. Unfortunately, sooner or later we are held responsible. The agent of judgment is reality itself. Privileges separate us from reality. They protect us from the consequences of our choices. When we lose touch with reality, however, we can no longer formulate plans that can be executed with any degree of assurance. As Bill Clinton remarked regarding Voodoo Economics: "You can't repeal math."

Now let us turn this analysis around: if shirking responsibility leads ultimately to failure of the system, then responsibility, as a issue of character, might be thought of as persisting with our obligations until we bring matters to a workable resolution.

I feel that it is important to reiterate a point made in our discussion of will. There is enormous power, little appreciated, that comes with a commitment to responsibility: only by persisting in our attempts to make things work - perhaps beyond reason, in some cases - do we bring reality to reveal itself to us. Through use of our intellect, that understanding enables us to better predict the outcome of our actions, and so to succeed in efficiently and effectively applying power to accomplish our goals.

But there is more: in a spiritual sense, assuming and acquitting responsibility brings us into contact with dimensions of consciousness that reveal truth to us, and support us in realization of our goals.