The Importance of Responsibility

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A forest, with a road in the middle. Light shines through the woods.

“It’s in responsibility that most people find the meaning that sustains them through life. It’s not in happiness. It’s not in impulsive pleasure.”

Jordan Peterson

Index

  1. ) Introduction
  2. ) Attention depletion
  3. ) A trail of consequences
  4. ) Living out a lie
  5. ) Hemispheres and onlookers
  6. ) Important connections
  7. ) Conclusion

Introduction

An increasing amount of people seem to be lost. Simply tossed around by whatever extraneous influences they are being exposed to at any given time. Lacking the awareness that decisions – as minuscule, as they may sometimes appear – are what keep them from becoming themselves. Many are wandering around, with no idea whatsoever of what lies beyond the downtrodden paths of what their peers, or even other influential people, tell them. They are bound by forces outside of their reach – effectively forestalling the one thing that can and will never be replaced: life. What they are living out is not theirs; they are merely abiding to superfluous norms, or helping others reach their dreams, whilst neglecting their own. By not taking on responsibility, said people are effectively laying their very lives into the laps of others.

This post is aimed at exploring the topic of responsibility and its possible ramifications on a variety of life-related themes. I have also decided to rant a little bit, since I do believe that taking on responsibility is one of the most important things that one has to accept, if one would like to become himself.

Attention depletion

We grow up surrounded by a steady stream of stimuli, which have been designed specifically, so as to garner as much of our attention as possible. Advertisements, video games, even the occasional pub crawl, are but tools invented to get us to abscond from activities, which may benefit us in the long run. The aforementioned influences are especially powerful in terms of getting us hooked. Alcohol, the night life, and peer pressure, are just some other links, which may elevate our feelings in the short term, yet have no benefit at all in the long run.

Whilst indulging in said short-term pleasures once in a while can be a renewing breeze and essentially rekindle our flame, I dare say that they might cause us more harm than good, for they are frequently abused, in order to flee from everyday life. That is, these practices are more often than not used to escape from the things that we know, we should do. Instead of learning for that important exam, we go hang out with our bros. Instead of hitting the gym, we tell ourselves: “Not today, I don’t feel like going”. In doing so, we are de facto doing, what humans are most apt at: conserving energy. These trade-offs do, however, come with a cost. One that may not be visible at the moment, one decides to stray from the path, but they will eventually come true. Whilst the immediate gratification may seem daunting at first, there is nothing to be gained but misery, in the long run, if one essentially fails to take the bull by the horns.

Even if we are having a good time, that small fleck of “having-to-do”, will lure in the back of our minds and continuously gnaw away at our attention and our resources. For we will be guilt ridden by the suppressed tasks, which we are too lazy to take on right now. As soon as playtime’s over, reality starts to kick in, with one slight twist: we now have even less time to complete our task. In avoiding what needs to be done, we are getting more and more anxious the longer we procrastinate. In failing to take on responsibility and accepting the fundamental fact that live itself is suffering, we deny ourselves the very pleasure of living.

For if we do not give ourselves the chance to break free out of this cycle of mindless indulgence in extraneous trivialities, we will be stuck on repeat. Not realising that in avoiding responsibility, we give away whatever power lies within. We essentially give up on life. Proudly we proclaim that it is not our problem, shifting the blame on things outside of our reach in a misguided attempt to absolve us of our wrongdoings.

A trail of consequences

It appears to me that a great majority of people seem to have never realized this fundamental part of life: Everything we do or don’t do has consequences. Yet most of us appear to call quits, when they get this ludicrous feeling of helplessness in the face of the government, their teachers, or their parents. Instead of taking care of our personal spaces, we try to fix the world. Something infinitely more complex than can ever be possibly grasped. By partaking in demonstrations, complaining about the patriarchy, or whatever ominous organization seems to be behind the misery of those, who are not willing to take on their life, and accept full responsibility for their own actions, nothing but plight is bound to rear its ugly head. Of course nothing else will happen, if one constantly complains about forces beyond one’s control. In doing so, one is giving away all that one has: life. Something, which cannot be gained, but is all too easily lost. In reacting like this to whatever mass-media has spoon-fed said people, they can hardly be called adults. Being an adult does not entail having reached a certain age. It does not mean having a family. Being a grown-up means to take on responsibility for whatever happens. It does not matter, if you think the system is rigged. If you read this, chances are, you have gotten basic education. This itself is of immense value. If you read this, you are also in the possession of a functional internet connection. A heap of knowledge is but a click away, yet temptation lies at every corner. I will go further into detail, regarding procrastination, in another post, but I do think you get the picture.

We are living in an age, where everything is possible, yet most people are not even aware of what lies within them, for they are too blinded by ideologies and instant gratification. For potential will always be there, yet it is not unlocked by sitting in front of the telly and eating cheetos. There is nothing to be gained but mind-numbing instant gratification. In watching television, regularly checking your social feeds and trying to keep up with the joneses, one is but chasing a mirage. Fabricated pictures and seemingly perfect lives are but facades, yet most compare themselves to these illusions. By using others as points of reference, happiness will be lost. We have forgotten that everybody is different, yet we are all to quick to compare ourselves to our peers. We are blinded by their achievements and accomplishments, and are essentially in a quasi-permanent state of negativity, since we supposedly do not live up to their standards.

We only see what is outside, but not what is inside. And in only looking what is outside, one will never realize that everything is inside. The way we perceive things, respond to things, accept things, are all powers, which we have seemingly given away. Out of sheer desperation of trying to become like “person X”, we are losing ourselves. Not becoming who we are; we have become mere replicas of others’ expectations. It is but a fools errand to look for pleasure outside of oneself, but society tells us that we have to get this product, that we have to do this, and so forth, so as to guide us towards consuming more and more. Whilst at the same time we fail to conclude that in trying to become somebody else, we will lose whatever potential and individuality is left within us.

We seem to have forgotten that we will never be able to do things exactly like others, to become exactly like others. For paths are different. Yet we forcefully toss aside our own talents – heck, most of us haven’t even experienced their own possibilities – in a misconstrued attempt of trying to please others. This is the prototype of the so-called “nice guy/girl”. One, who has essentially lost their edge, or has not found it to begin with, by means of constantly supplicating others and not trying to stick out.

Of course it will be hard to become oneself. Naturally one is also bound to suffer, if one takes up the challenge, which life constitutes. But there is nothing greater than finding yourself. There is nothing better and more fundamental to life than taking on responsibility, irrespective of what those around you are doing, and realizing your innate potential.

Living out a lie

In watching reality TV, or any other series for that matter, one is living out the live of somebody else. We see ourselves in the roles of these people, share the thrill with them and feel with their losses, as if they were our own. Yet, when reality kicks in, one is of course once again drawn back to chasing the next dopamine rush in the form of short-lived pleasure, since something appears to be amiss.

Society, as it exists right now, is for the most part built upon trying to get others to simply be couch potatoes and consume as much as possible, without questioning what’s actually going on in the world. Most people dare not venture outside of their comfort zone and are instead happy with getting their next paycheck, so that they can spend it all the following weekend on booze. Seemingly escaping reality for a few heavily impaired hours. As Monday comes around again, the cycle continues on. Working a boring job that they do not like, to gain money to impress people they truly do not even care about. Simply keeping up their appearances, in order to not fall behind their peers, who are just as misguided. It is truly a sad matter of affairs, but there is hope to be found, for everybody can take on responsibility.

It is the chain, which connects the individual and their dreams. For one can never hope to achieve anything worthwhile, without taking care of matters, which need to be done. You can never become who you are, if you are not willing to take on life and all of its suffering. For if all you do is trying to avoid anything, which may make you feel bad in a short term, you will suffer far more than if you would take the reins into your hands and deal with it. I would even go so far as to say that by taking on this burden, you will soothe the waters and existence itself will not be perceived as “suffering” anymore.

By means of not running away from your fears and not giving into these fabricated lies of things, which one seemingly ought to possess, you will finally see the light. Even if it is clouded at first, and negative thoughts will arise, you will be infinitely better off than somebody who tries to flee from reality.

Not only will taking on responsibility make your life better as a whole, you will also be able to enjoy it in general way more than somebody, who does not deal with reality in this way. By embracing the suffering and accepting that life will always present to you challenges, which are to be overcome, you will grow stronger in the process and find out that you have been strong all along. Instead of waiting for the next paycheck, you will look happily forward to the next day, irrespective of what needs to be done, since you realize that we are all in this together.

I am certain you have people close to you. Even if they are simply colleagues, or friends, or human beings, who you encounter occasionally. In essence it does not matter, whom you are interacting with, because in taking on responsibility for your life, those close to you will benefit as well. Beforehand you might have erred to much on the negative side of life. Everything might have been a plight, for negativity has continued to rise throughout the years. You might have built a shell around you, ready to repel everything that might possible infringe upon your fleeting sensations of happiness. But life’s been a drag that way. In accepting that you are the sole captain of your existence, you will begin to feel yourself again. To accept everything that comes your way, for you have come to realize that your way of responding to outward influences shapes everything. You have come to the conclusion that in becoming who you are, you have essentially been revivified.

Your actions may even prompt others to take on more responsibility in their lives. Not only will those around you be more inclined to aid you, in whatever subtle ways you can imagine – that is: even a smile, or a friendly gesture (which may go a long way, both for your and their longevity)  – , but they will also notice your improved mood and, as a consequence, be more likely to aspire to become more like you. You are thus not only becoming human yourself, but also allow others to get a glimpse of the possible positive implications, which come with taking on responsibility.

Hemispheres and onlookers

One of the biggest societal differentiations between the western and the eastern hemisphere is that of the overarching sense of belonging. That is: the west tends to focus heavily on the individual and the self, whereas the east is more focused on the community and others. I do believe that for humans from the western side of the globe, one of the most important bonds has been lost due to this fundamental divergence: a sense of being part of something bigger than oneself. Over the centuries, the west seems to have forgotten that everything hangs together. So many individuals seem to be hung up on becoming a “success” themselves, whilst forgetting that their so-called “success” hinges fundamentally on others.

You cannot become rich (which is a fallacy in itself, but I’ll get to that in another post), if you do not have people, who are willing to buy your product. You cannot even buy a product without other people. Products cannot be produced without other people, and so forth. I presume you get the gist of it – and this has been just one simple example of where other humans come into play. Everything that exists has come into existence due to the labour of those around us. Relationships, our food, our clothes, shelter, and so on, are all factors dependant on homo sapiens.

One cannot exist without others, for others also show us who we are. Seeing that humans are social animals, I dare say that this aspect has been gravely neglected. Moreover so during times, where everybody and their dog seemingly needs to become “successful”. Let me ask you this: would you do, what you are doing right now, if nobody were to know of it? If nobody would know that you are doing a good deed, or helping somebody else for that matter, would you be still inclined to complete it?

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.” – Matthew 6:5-15

It has been my experience that most people are not willing to do anything without onlookers. Be it Instagram, facebook, or whatever means of sharing their deeds are apparently necessary, most cannot refrain from completing one good action, without feeling compelled to gain instant gratification. Of course, sometimes it is necessary to get out a message. Even more so, if you are dependent upon the feedback of others. That is, if you own a business, or are a writer, then it is absolutely vital to reach as many people as possible, but if all you do is trying to garner short surges of dopamine by means of likes than you are essentially neither being yourself nor are you truly confident, let alone content, with what you are doing. You are but chasing the afterimage of your actions, for what matters is not the deed anymore, but rather, what you are getting out of it.

I do believe that our current culture focuses way too much on the individual. Albeit I do suppose that technological advances, such as social media and the like, are at least partly to blame on said current paradigm, there appears to be still a giant gap between the west and the east, in terms of dealing with those who are close to us. If more people would realize that everything is bound together, we would also be more open about ourselves and in turn be able to be more apt at fulfilling our potential, for stigmatizations and the like would most likely decline.

Important connections

No man is an island, and the sooner we start building bridges with others, instead of shutting ourselves off from opinions and often times necessary corrections of our modus operandi, the sooner we start to become who we are. By means of accepting the hardships of life and integrating its lessons, we evade becoming stale and start being. For growth and life is an ever-occuring process. One, which – if blocked or forced – will work against us.

Existence can never be found by means of pertaining to standardized models of conduct. You will be somebody, but not yourself, if you are not willing to accept responsibility for all your undertakings as well as actions. With that being said, there is, however a line between taking on responsibility in a responsible manner and trying to shoulder the world.

In being responsible, you realize that everything you do matters, and you do not put the blame on others, if things go awry.

In being overly responsible – that is, in trying to control everything by means of taking on the blame for forces outside of your control – you will become miserable.

Even though I am a huge proponent of responsibility, it becomes a burden, if you are too zealous in regards to shouldering everything that is going on. “Could haves, Should haves , Ought to’s” and the like are all signs of misguided responsibility. Whilst hindsight is always 20/20, there are far too many things outside of our grasp, which one cannot account into, whilst making decision. It would henceforth be counterproductive to take the blame for everything that has happened.

Distinctions between your own responsibilities and those of others need to be made. Forces beyond our control, irrespective of them being natural, or caused by humans, who are genuinely out of your reach, should not be used as a point of reference. There are many things which you cannot consider that happen all the time, but you should definitely pay heed to those things in your immediate environment. Cleaning up your room, getting a grip on your finances, being responsible in terms of your overall well-being, and overall not becoming a leech on others, are just a few things, which a person – that is, an adult – should pay careful attention to.

Not fixing those leaks and venturing head first into overly complicated systems and structures is but a fools errand. Change can only occur, if the individual takes on responsibility for their actions. Society itself is a construct, which is composed of individuals. That is, if you wish to change the world, then start by changing yourself. Take care of what needs to be taken care of. Gradually start building your momentum, and then slowly but surely start taking on more and more responsibilities. You will not only become more competent, for you will not be overwhelmed by the sheer multitude of leakages that are to be found, but you will also grow. You will essentially become who you are. It is by accepting challenges, by shining a light on those spots, which have been kept in the dark for far too long that you will become whole, since treasure is most likely to be found, where you do not wish to look at.

There is more than enough time, if you live as you are destined to live. One cannot tell you, how you should live, but yourself.

You see, everybody has the same 24 hours. It is not the amount of time that counts, but the quality. In my essay regarding the metaphysics of time, I have shed more light on this subject matter. I suggest reading it, if you wish to get to know more about what it means to be fully present.

With that being said, nothing comes without a cost. Often we have to make decisions between the lesser of two evils. And those choices will not always be what’s best in the long run. But it is far better to make a choice, be able to outweigh the consequences and taking on the responsibility for what is going to happen next, than to evade all the possibilities and ask yourself at the end of your life “what would have happened, if …?”.

You see, no choice is a choice as well. In not accepting responsibility and basically leaving everything up to chance, you will miss out on a great many possibilities and ways to grow as an individual and human being. In doing, you are starting to become alive. It is not by being a passive observer of life that one is being alive. It is only in taking action – and one cannot do so properly without taking on the responsibility of what is going to happen afterwards. Since, if you are not aware of what you are doing, and henceforth not really engaged in your current undertaking, you are not being present and as a consequence will always operate below your best level of performance.

For if either your mind or body are absent whilst performing any task, the result will always be lacklustre. Only in being present and fully aware of what is happening right now, will you be able to excel and enter the state of flow. Further elaborations regarding this state will be made in a future post, but for now it suffices to say that in noticing when your mind wanders, and in refocusing on your current task, your results will be infinitely more satisfactory – not only by means of subjective evaluation – but also from an objective perspective, than if you were absent. Same goes for being alive. The present is all there is, after all. It can only be experienced, if you take care of the things that need to be taken care of. That is, responsibility is the only way to true freedom.

Conclusion

The earlier you start taking care of yourself, the better you will be off. For the best time to plant a tree was yesterday and the second best time to do so, is now.

In shouldering your own suffering and in accepting the responsibility that goes along with it, you will feel alive. And you will also be able to experience others in a more humane, accepting way. It is truly one of the fundamental undertakings of becoming human. To make the best out of what you have got. To realize your own potential, by not succumbing to false idols and essential becoming an individual, is, what responsibility in its most genuine sense entails. So it is up to you to take on the torch passed down by generations of self-revivified humans and to start becoming who you are.

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