Personal Responsibility

Shelly - Asheville, North Carolina
Entered on September 6, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

I struggle daily, hourly with what I believe.

Though raised Catholic by a devout mother and converted father, I left the faith of my childhood at the age of eighteen. Having been the church organist since the tender age of twelve in addition to fully completing years of CCD, this was no insignificant event or decision.

Indeed, leaving a community that had played such a vital role in my upbringing left me feeling lost and more than a little alone.

For several years I wandered spiritually, trying to connect with various communities and their tenets.

I am still not certain that I believe in an all-powerful god or higher power. I do not want to think that there exists in the sky some cosmic scorekeeper meting out rewards and punishments. I instead like to think of the world as one connected organism – similar to the Gaia hypothesis introduced by James Lovelock or a universal consciousness put forth by Carl Jung.

In my opinion, we are all in constant connection as well as constant flux. We actively participate in creating our experiences and our world. If one part is suffering or another is not caring properly its surroundings, everyone and everything is affected, from the smallest microscopic organism to the entire planet.

Thus I believe I am called to take responsibility for myself and the consequences of my thoughts and actions. It is an active and ongoing process; I am never done with my work.

This ever present duty requires much thought and awareness. I do not believe that anyone is completely perfect; rather, everyone makes mistakes. Ultimately, I am striving to improve upon my ability to manage my attitudes and navigate my environment.

I try to see myself and others with compassion. Though I may mess up, I am not damned forever. Rather, I prefer to think that I, and every other living thing, am doing the best I can given the knowledge and skills available at any given time.

I can seek to fulfill this role in large and small ways. Whether by watering my houseplants regularly, teaching my students biology, calling my mother every weekend, or by making sure to write my last surviving grandmother monthly, I am actively creating and maintaining a reality in which care and responsibility are the core.

I find great comfort in the Buddhist thinking that a lifetime of careful moments equals a carefully lived life. Care of myself, others, and the world around me is, in my belief, my most sacred charge.