Responsibility can be a sharp and cutting word, often full of notions of good or bad or right or wrong.
It's just a word, but it holds a great deal of expectation, and judgment, and control.
I used to
use it in my mind like a righteous sword pointing toward "them", and in truth, most often pointing toward "me"...
"I should do this", "They should do that", "I should have done this", "They should have done that", "What's the matter
with them?", "What's the matter with me?", "Why can't I/they just do what they're supposed to do?"
I have much less respect for the word responsibility now... well, at least in the way I used to think of it and use it, as a set of very
specific rules for each individual's required behaviours.
Sometime in 2013, under the unforgiving weight of all my collected swords, I came to such a point of utter futility and exhaustion, that I just gave up the fight. I'd had enough.
Nothing was working. I just couldn't do it anymore. I surrendered.
I sort of realized that, "Well, life has been happening all along anyway, for my 51 years on this planet so far. Why not just accept things as they are and just live? Why
not stop the endless focus on all the things I haven't been able to control or change?"
And so for a while... I just "lived".
A few weeks later, grace appeared.
I can't fully explain this gift
of grace. I've already tried thousands of times, and my words have mostly felt as useless as my swords.
But, one significant part of that gift was that my understanding of responsibility completely changed.
I no longer
see any one person or any one group doing anything in isolation.
What keeps occurring to me is all the incomprehensibly infinite and complex factors that contribute to any and every action or achievement, so that, in a way, I see
that we're all responsible for everything, just by our very existence.
We're all the butterfly's wings, endlessly creating swirling currents of air that become part of the forces of wind that act on the waves to build up the tsunami...
EVERYTHING is connected.
I now feel just as responsible for every bit of the world's successes and wonders as I do for all the world's appearances of racism, and colonialism, and misogyny, and poverty, and consumerism, and war, and violence,
and ecological devastation.
And it's not at all the heaviest of burdens it may at first appear to be... the amusing paradox is that it's the lightest and most free.
It asks of me ONLY to keep noticing with curiosity
and wonder and awe, the something much bigger about life than my mind can fully comprehend...
...And in that awareness, to keep gently and simply "walking as though my feet are kissing the earth", as Thich Nhat Hanh says, with growing
appreciation for how the intelligence of Nature/God/Universe (whatever you wish to call it) can quite capably take care of the rest.
And this "feet kissing earth" doesn't really tell me WHAT I should be thinking or doing. It doesn't tell
me what will have the most or least impact, or what will cause the most or least harm, or what will be the most or least responsible. How could any tiny human, in this vast expanse of ever-changing life and time, possibly ever know?
It just tells me to keep walking in a particular way.
It reminds me of the state of mind from which my best steps will always spring... from a deep well of reverence for all, instead of from a chest of insecure swords pointed at arbitrary
I am still VERY far from living in this state of knowing and doing, but my steps and heart are much lighter. I still have a ready chest of swords, but I'm discovering the joy of appreciating them more and using them
Upon reflection, the swords are really quite beautiful.