Responsibility to Life

I have many friends — and although I have never met up with the vast majority “face to face”, I nonetheless cherish when they motivate me to think about something long and hard.

Recently, several things came together in a way that I wish to firstly acknowledge, and also expand upon.

The first was a blog post by Drew Lepp: “Don’t Overthink It: Why it’s OK to Trust Your Intuition“. Her thoughtful pieces go beyond what is considered web design, user experience, etc. — in this case she also mentioned Barry Schwartz (and I wish to come back to this point in a moment).

The second was a question raised by Jean Russell on Facebook, and I quote it in full here:

Questions: to what degree am I responsible for what happens to me? To what degree am I responsible for how I chose to experience it, And the story I tell about it? To what degree am I responsible for what someone else experiences? To what degree am I responsible for how they think and feel about that experience (and their story about it)? And finally, to what degree am I responsible for the society I live in, the patterns it creates, the history it has, and the future it is creating?

We may not agree on our answers to these questions.

The third thing actually goes back many months — I came across a blog post by Elizabeth Young which I enjoyed so much that I wanted to learn more… and then I discovered “The Possible Podcast” — which I have been listening to off and on, and I just listened to episode #7: “BE RESPONSIBLE – Always put God first“. To cut to the chase (and yet I also wish to implore you to listen to the quite succinct full discussion — it’s less than 9 minutes, and also less than 9 MB in total): the advice concerning responsibility concerns the way we respond in any given moment, in any given situation.

This brings me back to Barry Schwartz, who gave a TED Talk almost 10 years ago that also spoke directly to these “responsibility” issues so many people today are concerned about (note that he has also written about many of these issues — see also his website at Swathmore University): “The Paradox of Choice” (the point he makes is about 3 and a half or 4 minutes into this presentation, when he says “Doc, what should I do?”).

I find Elizabeth Young’s advice is very apropos to a situation in which life demands of us to answer. Barry Schwartz’s research addresses the question of “what if we ourselves are unable to answer (adequately, sufficiently, etc.)?” I, though, have yet another question I want to answer (but at the moment still feel quite clueless about): What if life does not pose any questions at all, but you nonetheless see a way to “respond” — or to simply improve it?

This is a very real situation for me: Today, virtually no one asks “how can I find X?” … even though the methods most people use to find answers to questions are very antiquated. No one is expecting a response, or a solution or anything like that — to a question they do not have. Most people feel as certain today about the order of the universe as most people did hundreds of years ago when Copernicus and Galileo argued that the universe could be better understood from a different perspective. Copernicus and Galileo were offering solutions to problems these people didn’t feel they had.

Listening to the podcast that Elizabeth Young and Dr. Phil D. Mayers collaborated on, I sense that the way I address the issue of illiteracy still needs to be optimized — insofar as the literacy rate is nowhere near high (I would say the rate of illiteracy [i.e., literacy/illiteracy in the sense of what used to be called “media literacy”] is somewhere around 99%). When no one is asking a question, how do you respond?

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