Responsibility & Freedom

Some individuals perceive the shadowy figures lurking in our collective fog. Others are distracted, scattered, and do not see.

Oh and deep in the night
Our appetites find us,
Release us and blind us
— Deep in the night —
While madmen sit up building bombs
And making laws and bars.
They’re gonna slam free choice behind us…

— Joni Mitchell, The Three Great Stimulants, from Dog Eat Dog, 1985


Regardless of individual attributes, we, as a culture, are embarrassingly immature. Our pleasures, our likes, dislikes, and tendencies — as well as the institutions which define us as a nation — are dragging us into increasingly dark places.

Unfair, you say?  What makes our culture less than the rest of humanity?

Well, our unbelievably arrogant assumption that we are at the top of the heap, for starters. Much of the rest of the world regards us at the top of a heap, too — but a heap of what?


Regardless of our personal beliefs, we live within the influence of a Judeo–Christian culture. Most of us were raised within this construct, and its influence is deeper than we imagine. This presents some unique obstacles to the objectives we presumably wish to attain.

Missing from this worldview is an understanding and acceptance of karma, or the simple concept of cause and effect. Karma is a divine law, an inescapable principle. Because karma is a device intended to emancipate the individual, its divine purpose is remedial, but, when realized, it regulates behavior. Since our culture, as a whole, does not believe in karma, cause and effect, reincarnation, and the wheel of eighty-four, we consider ourselves to be free from these realities. This perspective conveniently allows the wayward mind to avoid yet another annoyance in life: personal responsibility.

Why do you suppose we have created such a litigious society, with a law for every nuance of life, and an attorney for every inconvenience? Simply because, we, as a culture, exercise no personal responsibility. No, we spend our time braying about our illusory freedom. ‘The land of the free’ — Bastion of liberty! We’re free to do anything we want. Right?


This is the self-created illusion we must confront in order to recognize our condition and transcend it.



Responsibility and freedom go hand in hand. They are inseparable. Whereas the mind likes to think of them as opposites:

    • Freedom, to the mind, implies freedom from responsibility. “I’m freeeeeeee! Ha ha ha!!!” Responsibility means awareness, discipline, work, accountability, effort — sometimes even sacrifice. “No thank you,” says the mind.


  • The mind says being responsible takes away my freedom. “I don’t want to be responsible! I just want my freedom… Dammit!”

This is completely backward. When we turn our backs on our responsibilities, we surrender our freedom to someone or something else and simultaneously become enslaved to him/her/it. Freedom is only acquired when we fulfill our responsibility to experiencing it — in other words, when we create it. And true freedom requires the utmost responsibility.



Expecting to enjoy freedom by voting every two to four years is rather like expecting to attain God realization by going to church every Sunday. Excuse me if that offends you, but take a look. (Parenthetically, voter turnout in the US — generally not much more than 50% — is among the lowest among industrialized nations, and dropping.)

While many advocate that slavery is where we’re headed, I would suggest that slavery is where we are. Joni saw the writing on the wall twenty five years ago. George Orwell saw it before the twentieth century was half over. Throughout history, more evolved souls have seen it for thousands of years, but chose to place their attention on more elevated goals.

We have just experienced week 1 of the year 2011. I won’t be so vain as to prognosticate, but while we’re wading through the remainder of the year, please contemplate the possible truth of these considerations.

We have been given a theme and an aura — of both worldly and spiritual nature — for this year. The theme is not dissimilar to the one revealed in 2001; the aura is deeper and darker. As usual, we didn’t have to look much further than the tip of our nose to be shown.

We’re being asked to dig deeper. Can we manifest the wisdom to perceive the challenge, the discipline to outcreate it?

Not alone.






Most Recent Contemplation: Songs from Our Youth

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6 thoughts on “Responsibility & Freedom

  1. Thanks for this Larry. I think its interesting that we also have movement in Sudan, a country ripped apart by violence, towards independence of the South from the North whose zealous militants have terrorized its people. Granted, a reflection of freedom, but I am sure we will see more of both reactionary, violent acts and revelations of reflective truth as we enter this new era!

    1. Absolutely, Frank.

      All over the world it’s time to fasten our seatbelts and keep our attention sharp and focused — in 360˚. Change is something we all want to survive, but not all of us do.


  2. Since Joni Mitchell is from Canada, I think it’s appropriate to give a long overdue nod to our unpresuming neighbor to the north.

    Canada, understanding the weaknesses of human tendencies, has provided in their criminal code prohibition of hate speech — making it clear that, as a nation, Canada does not condone this low form of behavior.

    What a novel idea, to so clearly state what is and is not acceptable in a civilized country.

  3. This reminds me of a chapter in the book *Neither Wolf Nor Dog* by Kent Nerburn.

    The book documents the relationship the author had to a native american who commissioned him to help get his thoughts into a book that non-natives would read. There’s a part that compares the American value of freedom to the native value of responsibility; these values aren’t exactly different, but by putting the emphasis on one or the other you end up with a very different society.

    You might enjoy reading it.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      Somehow I missed your comment when you wrote it. So, nearly three years after the fact, thank you very much for the recommendation. There are so many ways of viewing issues of life.

      Master’s throughout time have advocated the attainment of a 360˚ perspective — not a frivolous undertaking! But absolutely necessary for putting the final seal on endless rebirths.

      Thanks again!

  4. (Whoops, I meant freedom and honor.)

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