Responsibility. Commitment. Big, serious,
scary words. Words that imply decisions, actions, consequences.
But freedom... ahhhh freedom! The 'do anything, go anywhere,
experience everything, worry about nothing' kind of freedom.
An open, light, sunlight bright word. However, like the masculine
and feminine, yin and yang, the sun and moon, freedom and responsibility
are interdependant opposites - each is meaningless without the
other. And the way we balance these two in our individual lives,
to a certain extent, defines who we are.
But are we really free? Are even our impulsive,
'natural' actions predetermined by influences outside our control
- emotions, conditioning, age, sex, star-signs or hormones? Fear
not, the experts are always at hand with theories and research
and discoveries and more theories. According to the wisdom of
evolutionary psychology, we are genetically designed to fall in
love. Very reassuring news, as I am about to make the permanent
commitment of marriage. Unfortunately, it also seems that we are
genetically designed to be unfaithful. Not so reassuring! Here
am I, caught up in the first innocence of love, assuming that
the marriage vow 'till death us do part' is supposed to be taken
literally - not 'till genetic instincts us do part'. Two out
of every five marriages here in Britain now end in divorce - sobering
stuff. If I decide to free-fall, relying on my natural instincts
to make this relationship last, I am going to go splat.
So what's left? Nothing but a decision -
to take on a responsibility - to my partner, to the children we
may have and through them to the fabric of community. My genes
and hormones are single minded sods. They don't have hearts or
consciences, they don't understand love or tenderness, loyalty
or commitment. But I do.
Janet Leggat, UK
RESPONSALIBERTY ... OR LOST IN SPACE
Asked to design a house, few will start with
a table. An outline of walls, placement of windows and doors
define the boundaries within which space can exist and be expressed
in content and colour.
Parents define boundaries for their children
early on. "Don't punch your little sister!", "Don't
put your hand in the fire!" The "don'ts" are so
few that they are more easily learned. The "do's" are
too numerous to mention. Those few "no's" establish
a sort of safety code. In all religious traditions a few basic
"no's" are prescribed for the health and spiritual growth
of individuals and the community. Over the years some re-interpretations
are sometimes needed as essentials get confused with cultural
niceties. But there is a basic unity on suggested no-go, destructive
areas of life; violence, theft, disloyalty, hatred and sexual
promiscuity among them.
At some point, sooner rather than later, parents
have to let go and trust that their precious kids will choose
for themselves the ethical code that will enhance their personhood
In the name of freedom, a lot of people try
to do away with the "no's". With no sense of personal
or societal boundaries they get 'lost in space', unsure of identity
or self-worth. There was a great song once about skin. "Where
would we be without skin...? It keeps the outside out and the
inside in!" Our no's and yes's not only protect but define
Two men were standing in the street, one swinging
his umbrella. "Hey, look out", cautioned the other.
"I am free to swing my umbrella", responded the first.
"Your freedom ends where my nose begins", was the retort.
There are codes of conduct, there are standards
of morality, there are commonly accepted no's, there are laws
within which freedom can fully exist. There comes a time with
adulthood when the imposed standards and expectations of parents
and society chafe and we want to shed them like an old skin.
The new skin needs to grow from our response to the needs of the
world, from our innate respect for ourselves and all life. We
discover we actually want to be honest, we prefer selflessness,
we reject hate and prejudice in favour of love and compassion.
We want to be part of the creative, constructive spirit in the
world and so we choose to be the best we can. It is called freedom
with responsibility, hence our new word - "responsaliberty!"
Jean Brown, Australia