In today’s over-sexualized, pedophilloic, fast-paced, loudmouthed, modern culture, one gets the sense that responsibility, loyalty, and dedication are things of the prehistoric, dinosauric ancient past. Responsibility is relative to time, and time is relative to subjective values. There appears to be an inverse relationship with amount of love expressed and amount of responsibility accepted—all fleeting moments are made sacrosanct by the subjective human being who bestows immediate value to a one-night-stand. We are a culture of one-nighters (when speaking of sex) and one-dayers (when speaking of childcare).
At the moment, I am not interested in talking about all the things I could, in theory, talk about; I am merely interested in spending some time thinking about love and responsibility. I have already mentioned how much our culture values all things fast paced; I have also mentioned how we bestow much value upon fleeting moments. To say the same thing differently: we love immediate gratification. Like a pig high on methamphetamines, we roam carelessly in endless loads of dung in order to find something worth spending two-minutes with. Life has become a race. We’re all running after something. Every once in a while somebody, usually a philosopher or theologian, asks: What are we all running after? Like zombies high on Twinkies, nobody seems to bother with a careful, critical, and systematic analysis of the present situation. Everybody is too busy doing a whole bunch of nothing. We rant and we rave about the next “big thing.” We spend all of our “savings” money on things that simply won’t save us (pun intended). (By the way, what are we even trying to save ourselves from? Isn’t spending money in America a full-time career option?)
My caffeine high has run dry. I’m having a rebound effect and I feel quite limp from all of modern society’s roar. What I am observing around me has left me, simply put, stunned. What baffles me most is our inability to spend a single moment of our pitiful lives thinking about ourselves. Not about our possessions, not about our cravings, but our-selves. People don’t seem to have a sense of self any longer. They allow commercials to determine where they’re going next. They allow some talking head on TV to determine what they’ll think up (is thinking even involved here?) next.
It is out of this that I currently write. It appears to me that we are on the verge of a great breakthrough. A technological breakthrough. No, really. I am being quite serious now. What I mean is this: I feel that we are about to wake up from our deep slumber. Look at things this way: We’ve spent decades trying to bring people who were further apart closer together. We have created computers and applications which can make a person in Israel seem like he’s here with us in America. If people lived on the moon, we’d have no trouble communicating. None, whatsoever.
But I have a dream: people will wake up—one of these days—to reality. While technology taught us to escape from real people, we’re beginning to realize how irreplaceable we really are. An email from a friend is not really much. A hand-written letter is truly something else. A coffee date is even more. A handshake from a living soul is quite a scene. I think we are growing up, as a society. I’m not very optimistic with modern technology. I am optimistic about the human spirit. I think it’ll soon realize a profound secret: We all need one another. Books have never replaced human interpreters; social media accounts have never replaced actual physical contact.
It appears that it is safe to say that the biblical Creator God was right all along: we have been made in a creating God’s image. We are born to create things. We love to take ideas which are not palpable and make them reality. We like to make the invisible visible. We like to make our platonic lovers physical lovers. We like to take an email and convert it into a coffee date. While robots which function as prostitutes may soon replace human prostitutes, but even those pathetic losers who seek to objectify the Other and treat her as an object, yes, they too, will most likely not want to replace contact—holy contact, sacrosanct contact—with another human being. Even the worst of us would not allow such a thing to happen. But maybe I’m a dreamer…
In wanting so much to make distance and time disappear, we have come not much closer. A married soldier out in a war-zone is not really home when his wife emails him. Home is still where the heart is—the physical, beating, bloody, human heart. That heart is the heart which I speak of.
In attempting to escape reality, we have realized just how stupid and pointless it now all appears. We have attempted to do the impossible—we simply cannot replace a living soul. At least not yet. (And that is mostly an absolute “not.”)
Out of such a context I write about responsibility. We have become irresponsible. We no longer are responsible for our actions, for our thoughts, for our engagements, etc. We like to use language that simply avoids the cost of responsibility. Responsibility makes a claim on one’s time. It demands that the person devote his or her time and energy to meet a particular need—a need that the person is under obligation to fulfill. In our attempt to run from reality, we have attempted to also annul responsibility. We are no longer responsible towards people in our daily activities. One needs to simply read the way people talk to each other on the internet. We are no longer responsible citizens. One can see our lack of responsibility in the way we treat the environment. One can see it in the way we replace and dispose of the prostitutes we screw on a weekly basis. One can see our irresponsibility towards our parents; “the government” is now taking care of those people. Send them all away to a nursing home! One can see our irresponsibility in the way we divorce our wives and our husbands. Send her the divorce paperwork—I’ll text her later and let her know I’m divorcing her! One can see our irresponsibility in the way we abandon our children. Hey, at least I’m not like those other assholes who don’t pay their child support on time!
One can sense irresponsibility everywhere.
Our modern love lacks a responsible moral framework upon which to rest its bleeding head upon. In love we are no longer responsible. But what do you mean, kind Sir, by “responsibility”? What I mean is this: to be responsible is to be obligated to fulfill something; to be responsible is to be held accountable for x or y. Love requires responsibility.
The first step our culture has taken in annulling responsibility is a step most of us are guilty of both promoting and endorsing; that is, we are all responsible for speaking of love as falling inherently outside the realm of autonomy and personal responsibility. Take a look at the way we speak of love. “I’ve fallen in love with you—madly, passionately, and unreasonably,” says the boy to the girl. She responds, “I love you for all the wrong reasons too!” They then proceed to embrace one another…
We have taken love and made it an irresponsible action. It is not something we do ourselves; it is not something we will into existence ourselves. Rather, we “fall” (passively, beyond our control) in love. Love is something that “happens” to us (notice, again, the passive language). Passively we fall in love and passively we fall out. It wasn’t me. That is our motto. “Our marriage just fell apart,” says the single mother to her newly found lover. The woman never says, “I made our marriage fall apart.” She never says, “I contributed with my own thoughts, actions, and words towards the dissolution of our marriage.” Instead, what we get is karma-language. We get New Age voodoo. The husband is never responsible for his infidelity. “I was having a drink and then one thing led to another, and my erection got out of control, and then we had sex…” he tells his wife. In other words, it was clearly not his fault. He’s not really responsible.
But responsibility is not being pushed out by the ignorant mob only. Not entirely. We have philosophers with their determinism and theologians with their predestination. We have Nietzsche and we have Sam Harris. Since we have them both—lo and behold, none of us are morally held accountable for our actions: our neurons made us do it!
But even more could be said. So many of us have taken on the proverbial “victim mentality” (and I’m not using this as an absolutely derogatory term). We are all victims. We are victims when it comes to falling in love. We are victims when it comes to falling out of love. We are victims when we get married (It must have been cupid!) and we are victims when we divorce (Time and change just drew us apart). Once again, it is never really us. It’s always something or someone else.
Love requires responsibility. It requires duty and time. There is something that makes us human when we are facing a human (scientists call them “mirror neurons”). We are human beings—sickly and broken—apart from the Others.
It is time for us to take on a “victor mentality.” We are here and we are responsible for the way our neurons fire—whether we like it or not. Our language needs to take on a more responsibility-oriented approach. Believe me, once one starts noticing just how much our language forgives us, one is closer to realizing just how much one is in need of repentance. The way we use our language reflects the way we act and feel about things. If love is a passive occurrence, how could one, ultimately, be responsible for it? I no longer wish to use fairytale-language. Fairytales are fine—so long as they are introduced with the phrase once-upon-a-time; so long as they remain in a bookstore. Life is not much of a fairytale. There is no magic here. There’s only Love and its cousin, Responsibility.