Responsibility

Responsibility is simply, our ability to respond—and building that ability.

On the farm, this is the care—both routine chores and larger projects—that we give to our growing crops.

Such care includes both reacting to threats (e.g. weeding) but also proactive preparation e.g. erecting scarecrows before birds arrive, installing drainage/irrigation in case of too much/too little rain)

Responsibility is not the same as responding. In fact, sometimes choosing not to respond develops—or preserves—our response-ability.

1. Respond is fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious.
2. Ability to respond is slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious.

(a/ka/a System 1 vs. System 2 in Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman)

Responsibility is to keep the ability to respond
—Robert Duncan, poet The Opening of the Field

The most fertile soil does not necessarily produce the most abundant harvest. It is the use we make of our faculties which renders them valuable. Talent, like other things, may lie fallow. —Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Responsibility is not duty. Nor burden, except in the sense that lifting weights burdens muscles and aerobic exercise burdens the heart temporarily. Doing so it develops the body’s ability to respond to stress and demands upon it.

A sense of duty imprisons you.
—Jenny Holzer, conceptual artist

Freedom’s flip side is responsibility. While freedom defines the spaces we have, responsible action is 1) within those spaces. 2) It also utilizes our gifts and talents, our seeds of potentiality. 3) And, looking forward to the final stage, it’s worthwhile. Moreover, such actions are most likely to be sustainable: they engage us, they challenge enough that we avoid boredom, but not too much to create anxiety.