Over the last few decades, mankind has been abdicating responsibility to specialists in every field. Politician, advertiser, designer, and psychoanalyst—everyone has a system to pontificate about: a set of clothes all should look good in, or a series of theories into which the personal rumbling of our unconscious must fit to match.
Even book-knowledge is just about useless when it tries to take the place of a direct experience—which is why I have been constantly inviting you (my students) to experiment for yourself. Otherwise, filled with noise from TV and radio and the clutter due to books and magazines, who will hear the birds singing in the early morning?
Of course, the specialists will argue that the world has become so complex and so packed with rapidly changing information, that no one can know what is really going on without their help.
For example, look at the way we have put all our faith in the power of science. Science appears to know so much more than us that we’ve thrown away our trust in our own common sense in favour of its theories. Whereas, in fact, science is simply a tool for a particular kind of understanding of our universe. By dissecting every fact and breaking it into its smallest possible components the scientists make us believe that they can help us understand the essence of anything. But although, science may have no problem splitting the atom or producing a more sophisticated coffee maker, when it comes to our personal fulfillment, it’s up to us.
Having said that, we refer to the advice of yet another type of expert; the mystic. As the religions may argue, disagree and fight it out on the streets of Delhi or Detroit, but if we examine the message of almost any mystic, regardless of religious affiliation , we perceive a common thread . In all their various forms of expression, the mystics do appear to agree that life is a voyage of discovery, a mystery to be lived through, rather than a problem to be solved.
They teach by examples: know thyself, seek and you shall find the kingdom of God is within. They throw the onus of responsibility back on the individual. They seek to empower us rather than strip us of our natural God given powers.
Just what does it mean to take responsibility? Simply put, it is acknowledging that at any given moment, in fact in every moment of our lives, what we choose is of our own creation. We and only we are in charge of ourselves. [Of course, there are plenty of arguments against this viz. heredity, environment, reasons of race, color and creed, IQ, karma, etc. and there are lots of excuses why we cannot take responsibility for our actions.]
Outside influence do affect us, it is true. But, it is equally true that it is we who control how we respond to these influences. We have all known days when everything went our way as well as the day when nothing went right. Is it just coincidence, or is it actually something we are pointing out? Or, is there some energy or vibration that we are emanating? Each of our responses to events around the world around us is uniquely individual. It is our response—we own it. And, the quality of our responses affects the life around us.
It may be hard to realize that the quality of our response depends largely on our conditioning. What one person may find offensive may be a delight to someone else. There is no definite definition of what is unpleasant, although many of us will agree on many things: war for instance, at least officially, is considered bad. But, there are plenty of folk in cultures other than ours—who lap it up: it alerts the adrenalin for one thing. An aristocratic English lady, for example, may be offended if a man fails to offer her his seat when she enters the room, but a radical New Yorker may be offended if he does.
In the same way as we are divided within our culture, we are divided within ourselves.
Experiment at times when you are dogged by indecision or by contradictory feelings by owning who you are at every junction where your mind swings into reverse, and by taking responsibility for the direction you are going at that moment.
The enthusiastic well-intentioned jogger, who sets the alarm for 5:30 am, is not the same person as the lousy sleeper who reaches out and turns it off without even waking up. Yet, both exist within each other with equal force. Owning these two sides of oneself and taking responsibilities for their existence, is all that needs to happen. By taking the responsibility for the different characters we find in ourselves, we can strike an agreement which is mutually satisfactory. It is because we are judgmental about these other characters that we don’t fit with our image of ourselves that we don’t like them, and it’s because we don’t like them, we ignore them.
Try having a moment-to-moment dialogue with yourself and create an understanding that takes into account all the players within you that often have conflicting ideas. If the jogger in you is totally fed up of owning himself and the sleepy guy gets overruled by the jogger and wants to sleep a little longer on a holiday—give him the liberty to do so— you are a free human being. Taking full responsibility for the consequences of your actions is as vital as taking responsibility for the actions themselves.
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