Nothing is Burning Photo by JM Watson
Why me? What did I do to deserve this torment? I am not a murderer of thief who got his comeuppance. I do not deserve this. I was peacefully going about my business and God or the world or someone came and fucked that up. I want my money back! The world has wronged me and now it owes me. It’s Its fault and I am the victim. Wronged and oppressed by Being itself, I have a right to be upset and a right to justice.
But How Does This Help Me?
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t understand this argument. Or even if i said that it wasn’t forefront in my psyche at times. It’s a powerful and alluring pathway of thought. Wouldn’t it be easier to blame someone else, perhaps Nick who lead me into the area where the accident happened? Or the whole climbing community for not educating me of the dangers? Or maybe even the government for not making sure nature was ‘safetyfied’? Why not go all the way to blaming God, if he exists, I mean surely its his fault right? Whilst it might be possible to mount compelling arguments in favour of such an outlook, I cant see thats it helpful.
So far as I can tell, if you pass the buck of blame to someone else, you pass the responsibility of remedying the situation as well. The two things are inseparable in my mind. This is a pretty brutal concept because it means that the reason my life is a fuck up, is me. I am a victim yes, but a victim of my own inability to assume enough responsibility for the shortcomings in my life. Could I argue that this is 100% the case, of course not. But it is how I have chosen to see it. I have chosen to believe that everything that befalls me is my fault. As such, I have the agency to do something about it. Not someone else. Not God or Being itself. Me.
Taking Extreme Ownership of Life
So here I want to unpack the various ideas that have lead me to this way of thinking. Again I ask you to suspend your own biases as I try to flesh out the thoughts in my head. Try to put yourself in my shoe bearing in mind my legs were crushed and my dreams destroyed.
There is a randomness at work
Id like you to think back to the very first time you realised you were conscious. You can remember that right? Just after you were born yes? Did you think ‘Shit, this isn’t what I asked for?’. Are the circumstances of your birth your fault? Not? well then whos fault are they? Is there a law which says thet it must be someone’s or somethings fault? Perhaps its just the way things are.
There is a randomness at work in life. Its brutal I know. Why are some born in Russia circa 1930 and some born in monasteries where life allows them to be perfectly content living peaceful and meaningful lives? When you look at life from a bigger perspective, there really isn’t a reason. Sure, we could say that its the Socialists fault that life was as horrid as it was. But why was it that a specific consciousness (yours or mine perhaps) is born into that place and time? When I try to answer that question I hit a solid wall. I do not believe there is a reason. Its just random.
Turns out there is a lot of randomness about life. Not only is the society that we are born into random but being born at all is random. To our knowledge there has never been a single repeat of a specific consciousness. There is also no reason to assume that there ever will be. That’s truly amazing, each life born on this planet (or another) has a unique conscious experience. If there is some stock or reserve of consciousnesses out there in the aether it must surely be infinite to sustain this continual production of unique conscious expressions. Perhaps there is not and another process is at play. But it’s still hard to fathom how any one specific consciousness, you or I say, came to be generated from this vast process. That’s about as random as it gets.
Oppression is the norm, not the exception
When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t walk. why? Well in short lets say gravity was the problem. Without two legs I was unable to overcome the pull of gravity in anything approaching the definition of walking. Gravity was oppressing me, holding me back for my true potential. My liberation was me putting on my prosthetic, once again having two legs I could now walk.
We recognise oppression by human means,race, creed, gender, ideology. These structures create limits to what we can do and achieve. But nature also creates these limits and we are often slow to realise that the entire world oppresses us. Unfortunately this is just the way it is. We could say that the reason we cant fly unassisted is Being’s fault. And perhaps its not wrong, but I doubt we would have learnt to build aeroplanes by complaining about how gravity oppresses us.
We have limits in life. We are always oppressed by something. As far as I can tell the correct approach to this isnt to blame the limits themselves, but rather to blame ourselves for our inability to overcome them.
Individual responsibility is key
I have often told people ‘don’t make my problems yours, you have enough as it is’. This is usually met with initial confusion and then utter acceptance. If I have a problem, regardless of who’s fault it is or what randomness created it, it’s my problem. To solve any given problem I am usually incapable or insufficient in some way, so I upskill. Sometimes taking on the necessary learning to find a solution or outsource to someone or something more capable. I still define the problem and specify the criteria for a solution, it’s still my problem.
Taking a high level of responsibility for the life one lives is as liberating as it is brutal. One must have a truthful open conversation with oneself. Seeking out the flaws, demons and inadequacies hiding in the shadows. There are parts of oneself which are difficult to face. But it allows for a much greater agency of action to improving oneself. If you’ve read my first concept you’ll understand why I think it important to make things better. The area in which one has the greatest agency to do that is with oneself.
If you embody the ‘good’ you will improve the world around you in some way. If you embody the ‘bad’ things will get worse around you faster than you can imagine. Assume then that you yourself are the ‘bad’ and take responsibility for fixing that! No one else can. No one else will.
Responsibility and meaning
I have heard many people say of my accident that it happened for a reason, as if the event is tied into some grander meaning which we cannot fathom. I implore you, if you ever meet someone who has had a major disruptive change in their lives, do not say this. There are two problems with this. Firstly there is no intrinsic meaning with which we are imbued, meaning is something we construct. Secondly it alleviates the responsibility of the individual involved to create meaning. If the meaning already exists, why bother.
Is there a cosmic meaning to life? Could be. Who knows. But I think this is the wrong question. A better, more helpful question is: What meaning can I make of this life? If you ask that question, you simultaneously take responsibility for the fulfilment of its answer. Perhaps you decide that the best meaning for your life could be derived from saving lives. You then bear the responsibility to find the course of action that leads to that outcome. Becoming a doctor or perhaps an anti nuclear weapons activist. But it is you who must take responsibility for that and forge meaning, your own specific and unique manifestation of it.
In Physics scientists call the Higgs Boson the particle of mass. By analogy responsibility is the particle of meaning. Life is meaningful, but only if you take the on the responsibility of making it so.
Rehabilitation is My Responsibility
When I arrived in Rehab, I couldn’t walk. That, I decided, was my problem. The coincidences of a boulder falling from its slowly eroding perch just as I happened to be there was perhaps a random tragedy. But the fact that I couldn’t walk was decidedly my fault. I had not done the necessary healing. Nor the necessary hard work of rehab to build muscle and skill to be able to walk. I took ownership of that struggle and resolved to do something about it.
As shouldn’t surprise you now, I took motivation from a Tool song, 10 000 Days. In it Maynard sings of his mothers persisting faith being rewarded when she demands entry to the gates of heaven. I resolved to keep my faith in Being and take responsibility for my part in it. This is the list of Mantras I crafted from the lines of that song to motivate me in the rehab centre.
Give me my wings
- Its your time, do whatever you can without assistance
- Spread your wings, see how far you can push
- Tell them, speak your desires and your future into being
- You’re the only one, no more excuses
- Give me my wings, ask the question and deserve the answer