If we’re doing something but don’t quite do all that’s involved, what does that mean? Isn’t it that somebody – ourselves or someone else – ends up having to complete the task some other time? Anytime we’re not completely taking responsibility for what we’re involved in, someone along the line has to pick up those pieces.
At the level of society, that must create burdens: people carrying weight and those adding more. If we’re leaving rubbish behind in public spaces, someone will have to pick it up if these things aren’t to accumulate. It seems important to see life that way, to realise how anything we’re not fully seeing through becomes our community’s problem (Notes One).
More personally, it seems we can do something similar to ourselves: past, present and future self all perhaps stand in that relationship to one another. Procrastinating, planning insufficiently or letting things drift, aren’t we effectively just saving up problems for ourselves at another time? Understanding more, we’d perhaps avoid such a scenario (Notes Two).
If we saw the connections between our actions now and the consequences catching up with us later, might we do differently? Maybe changing our ways gets easier when we truly realise that we’re only doing it to ourselves. But, to think that way, we’d have to believe in and care about our future; if it looked like we might as well live for the moment, thoughts of acting responsibly towards our future might never arise.
Individually as much as collectively, maybe responsibility depends on believing something has value? That sacrificing our desires for the good of society was valued. That this path we’re asked to walk and all that’s expected of us along the way leads somewhere worthwhile. If our community doesn’t seem to value, appreciate or care for us then why would we be inspired to limit ourselves on its behalf?
I’m unsure where this train of thought has wandered – maybe to the point that if we’re to take full responsibility for anything then we may need to understand why and believe the reasons to be true? Maybe we need more inspiring reason than “because you must”, “everyone has to” or “this is how it is”. Beyond all the traditional threats, moralising and incentives is there any more comprehensive reasoning on offer? (Notes Three)
In many ways, I see this is pulling at the threads of society. It’s the sense of how to encourage and uphold the kinds of behaviour community life depends upon: responsible behaviour. Doesn’t society need us to act that way? To do what’s best for us and for others. To not go about creating problems. To find the right relationship to the present moment so we’re acting wisely with an eye to the future.
It’s the wisdom of thinking beyond the present moment – considering all the personal and systemic ripples going out from the choices we’re making and example we’re setting. Thinking that way mightn’t come naturally, but otherwise won’t we all be living with the consequences?
Notes and References:
Note 1: Market forces or social necessities
Note 1: Any escape from cause & consequence?
Note 1: The idea of think globally, act locally
Note 1: Ethics, money & social creativity
Note 2: Problems & the thought that created them
Note 2: Doing the right thing, we erase consequences
Note 3: Do we really need incentives?
Note 3: Common sense as a rare & essential quality
Note 3: If society’s straining apart, what do we do?
Note 3: What keeps us in check
Note 3: Tell me why I should
Sometimes it seems that the foundation of life perhaps rests in believing our own worth, as explored in Love of self.