"No snowflake in an avalanche feels responsible."
All right, we have established who we are and we have considered the reasons why
we might be here. We have laid out three rules for conduct that will presumably give us
progress and/or happiness. We have discussed the infinite nature of the creation we
inhabit. Now let's get down to business. There is a lot more to cover.
We need practical, every-day instructions on how to get along in this world at least
as much as we need grand philosophical ideals. This chapter is called "Physical" Respons-
ibility, but we know that the world physical is just a label for one of the many energy
levels that we can inhabit. It is a fundamental error to assume that physical life is some-
how less important than our mental or spiritual realities.
It is not less important. It is merely different. In the diatonic musical scale, is the
E less important than the F? No, they are simply sounds produced with different vibration
rates, and are both needed. In the same way, physical reality is a different rate of energy
vibration than mental or spiritual reality. Let us not forget also that none of these differ-
ent energy levels is more or less real than any other. The fact that we can only see the
physical world merely proves that it is the limited function of our physical eyes.
Having said that, let's concentrate for a while on this three-dimensional physical
level so that we can figure out exactly what our responsibilities are while we're here.
That won't be hard for most of us, because we have been instinctively focused on this
world almost every waking moment since we were born. Waking minutes, of course, are
not the same as sleeping minutes. Our dreams, when we are asleep, are the result of
concentrating on another non-physical level. We'll talk about that, too.
We have a problem here. It's going to be very hard to be specific about our
responsibility when everyone's job here is a little different from everyone else's. We all
have our own soul-history and specific soul interests or problems that we are working on.
There are groups, categories, and general responsibilities to be sure, but the fascinating
truth is that never has been or ever will be another person just like you or me or anyone
else. We may look alike, and even act alike, but just like the flowers in the fields, we are
never exactly the same.
How shall we subdivide humanity to make this project manageable? We can con-
sider age groups, for example. The responsibilities of a child from age 1 to age 10 are
certainly not the same as those of a teen-ager, and neither of those groups can be
expected to act just like a 20 or 30 year old adult. People change, sometimes radically,
with every passing decade, and so do their day-to-day responsibilities.
What about social groups? A person born into a nomadic, or even a completely
agricultural environment cannot be expected to have the same priorities as an urban
child or adult. And of course, there's the matter of sex. Men and women are so
obviously different in so many ways that we certainly must have different rules for their
behavior, unless like many, their sexual focus has become more complicated than that.
What do we say about those who seem to feel that their body's sexual equipment does
not match their point of view?
And so on and so on. Black people do not feel like white people, who do not feel
like Asians, who do not feel like Caribbeans or Polynesians, who do not feel like Middle
Eastern Arabs. Catholics do not want to be Protestants. Muslims do not want to be
Buddhists or Hindus. We have virtual warfare going on between those who align them-
selves with different religious points of view, and that doesn't even begin to consider the
position of those who call themselves Jews. Nobody seems to agree with their perspective
of the world.
Are we going to try to cover all the varying possibilities of every person's situation,
or are we going to focus in on the similarities we share and concern ourselves only with
general rules of conduct that apply to everyone? The answer is yes. We are going to do
both. Let's start with the general rules.
In chapter two we made a point of trying to simplify this problem as much as
possible by reducing our recommendations down to three simple rules. They are
important even if they are not simple, so we will refresh our memory by repeating them.
#1. Always treat everyone else the way you want to be treated.
#2. Be here now.
#3. Remember: Everything is energy.
There is no doubt that if suddenly everyone on the planet began to live their life
according to these three concepts, the change in society would be immediate and
profound. Expecting it to happen is the same as believing that in one 24-hour period,
all of the second-grade students in an elementary school would become as smart as
eighth graders. It's a nice idea, but apparently this is not how the world works. Our
purpose in stating these rules is based on the belief that if enough people read and
consider them, a few will actually try to apply them, and if it's done even on a limited
basis by a few, the results will be positive.
Another of the basic concepts that we have come to accept because of our own
observation is: There is no such thing as wasted effort.
Because of the principle of equal and opposite reaction, it is impossible for us to
apply ourselves to anything, good or bad, without eventually producing a result. A
better understanding of this fact might begin to cause second thoughts in the mind of
someone who is planning to do something that they know is not right. It would also
help to eliminate the discouragement we feel when the hoped-for positive results of our
efforts are not immediately forthcoming.
This idea also bears repeating. Nobody expects to plant a seed in the ground and
then stand back to immediately watch something grow. We are accustomed to tending
our gardens and then waiting for sun and water and time to nurture them to maturity.
Why should we expect that any other kind of seed we plant should work otherwise?
Not only will most of our efforts grow into physical reality in time, so will our thoughts,
and they will produce fruit of exactly the same kind as we planted.
Much of the misery in the world is created by people who have the mistaken im-
pression that they can continue to do or think the wrong things and somehow, miracu-
lously, they will eventually receive positive results. Short term benefits can often produce
long term problems, and conversely, concentrated positive effort, though sometimes
painful, can work long term wonders.
This idea of printing up a set of rules for human behavior is not exactly new. The
Old Testament in the Bible has a famous set of ten "commandments" that supposedly
came right from the home office through the intercession of Moses, one of God's right
hand men. Paraphrasing the words of my RSV, they go something like this:
1. You shall have no other Gods before me.
2. You shall not make any graven images (to worship).
3. You shall not take the Lord's name in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not kill.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet anything that is your neighbors.
The God of Israel, as presented in the book of Exodus, was a rather vengeful
judge who kept track of what everyone was doing and meted our punishment on a
regular basis to anyone or any group of people who did not behave themselves. This
list of rules was appropriate for people who were very concerned about possible
retribution for all of their mistakes. Several years ago, we wrote a little essay called
"The Ten Suggestions" in which we further amended the original commandments. It is
self-explanatory, so we thought we would reprint the whole thing here.
THE TEN SUGGESTIONS
It has been said that God gave man ten commandments, and man has passed
millions of laws trying to enforce them. Maybe the reason for this is that the ten
commandments, as stated in Exodus, are largely negative. Most of them begin with
"Thou shalt not". Nobody likes to be told what he or she cannot do. Most of us react
to "you can't do that" with an instinctive "who says I can't?" What if we were given ten
practical, positively worded suggestions for conduct that basically said the same thing?
Would we react any better?
1. Remember that, like Pinocchio, you are the product of a Creator. You are
asked only to respect "Gepetto's" judgement and authority until you earn the right to
become a real boy yourself.
2. Your allegiance must be only to your Creator. Substituting other objects of
adoration, such as wealth, fame, power, romance, intellect, or religion merely delays
your progress and contributes to your unhappiness.
3. Give your Creator respect in your words and deeds. You will be rewarded
with the greatest treasure of all - peace of mind.
4. Allow yourself regular periods of rest and concentration on things spiritual.
One day a week is a good practical formula, and will result in greater efficiency on
the other six.
5. Parenthood is a physical representation of the amazing creative process.
Respect this process by treating parenthood with honor.
6. Revere life, in all its forms.
7. Loyalty to one's spouse for life is incredibly difficult. Because of this, it demands
the best qualities of unselfishness we can develop. It's reward is self-control.
8. There's plenty for everyone. Learn to share. Taking what you don't earn costs
you self-respect, and that's too high a price for anything.
9. Always tell the truth. It saves a lot of time, because the truth will make itself
known sooner or later anyway.
10. See number 2. The grass isn't greener anywhere else. The only satisfaction
there is in having anything comes from the effort you spend to earn it.
There is one more general truth which we can consider a responsibility, although
it really is more of a privilege when fully understood. It is a fact that is already totally
or partially made use of by many, but so often forgotten or ignored that it should be
printed and hung on everyone's wall. At the risk of being considered a Bible-thumper,
we are going to make one more reference to it here, this time from the New Testament.
In Acts 20:35, Paul is quoted as saying, "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus,
how he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive." What a shame that the RSV
and other translations have used the word blessed here. All of the power and most of
the sense of this sentence has been lost because of our reaction to that one word.
We all appreciate the things that we call "blessings", but the vague idea that God will
give us a pat on the back and a few favors in return for our giving something of our own
is a watered-down distortion of how it really works.
Millions of people are out there every day stealing "things" from other people
because they just don't get the idea. It is not just more "blessed" to give, it is more
EFFECTIVE. It is more PROFITABLE. It is more PRODUCTIVE. It is more CREATIVE.
It is exactly the same as planting the kind of seed you want to get the fruit you want,
which can turn one seed into a whole tree. It is a fundamental principle of the whole
I don't know what Aramaic word Jesus used if and when he made the statement
Paul is quoting, but whatever he said, this is what I think he meant: "Don't waste your
time worrying about what you're getting. Just concentrate on what you are giving, and
what you get back in return will far exceed your gift." Jesus was a teacher, and a very
good one, from all reports. He was speaking from a deep knowledge of his subject, and
he was trying to be helpful, not create converts.
Just imagine how the world might be changed overnight if every parent taught every
child from day one that the way to get along and be prosperous in this world was to make
as many contributions of their time and talent as possible, and just watch the miraculous
results. This should be right alongside rule No. 1, and it should be pounded on in every
home and every school until everyone gets it.
How much time, effort, and resources are wasted globally on "security" concerns
because so many of us think that the way to get ahead is to take something that
belongs to someone else? Try to picture a world where there are no locks, no fences,
no guards, no police looking for "perps", and ultimately no armies because they are not
necessary. All of the real progress made by civilization to date has been made by those
who understood the "secret" of giving. What is this secret?
It is absolutely and literally guaranteed by natural law that we always get back
more than we give, and in the same currency - no exceptions! What could be plainer
than that? Those who do not grasp this concept, and keep giving negative input are
merely part of the problem, and the fruit of their efforts is ultimately sadness, both for
themselves and for others.
Now let us examine some specific examples of how people in different circumstances
can respond to their challenges by accepting personal responsibility or by trying to
avoid it, and see how the system works.
Interestingly, the books that have the most accurate information about the entry of
souls into the earth's environment don't talk a great deal about the responsibility of
children. Apparently, the main objective of childhood is to prepare for a productive
adulthood. Of course, a lot of the burden for this preparation naturally falls on the parents
of the child. Therefore we do not have just one soul growing in experience, we usually
It is a cooperative effort even in a much larger sense. Contrary to accepted belief,
the "child" does have a lot to say about who his or her parents are. Each soul comes here
after considerable discussion with others who are more experienced, and have only his/her
best interests in mind. A situation is selected where the parents will provide the optimum
circumstances in terms of heredity, environment, and often prior commitment, for the
soul to work on one or more areas of growth.
There is no such thing as a perfect arrangement. There are always challenges
because of the limitations of family and society conditions, and the soul's own tendencies.
Sometimes the circumstances change so radically after the "birth", that the opportunity
for growth is negated by the new complications and the soul might withdraw in favor of
another situation. This results, from the earth's point of view, in the "death" of the child,
and is often a traumatic experience for the family.
How the parents and others deal with their loss can enhance or retard their own
growth, and there are many souls who come here for a short time specifically to provide
that experience for the parents. The death is not a painful process for the soul/child
involved. It is difficult only for those who do not yet see the grand plan unfolding.
From the child's point of view, the first few years of life on earth are a huge
adjustment from a place with few limitations to the stifling environment of time and
space where even walking and talking have to be learned. There is the need to establish
cooperation between the animal consciousness of the new body and the eternal
consciousness of the soul with it's own long-term agenda - no small task. There is also
the need to learn to get along in a society where very few people are consciously aware
of the whole process, and consequently are not always helpful.
Learning to cope with limitations is what childhood is all about. Some limitations
are absolutely necessary for the welfare of the soul and the society. Others are "artificial",
and should be changed or eliminated. We all have to discover the difference. If parents
are too tolerant, the new child will be unprepared for the rough edges of society. If there
are too many restrictions, the frustration might produce bitterness or rebellion.
Everyone is learning here at all times, and if the child-rearing process is relatively
successful, then the soul can become a responsible adult who can make his or her own
decisions, right or wrong. The level of individual responsibility for the soul moves up, and
some meaningful growth can take place.
We're going to use the term "young adults" to include everyone from approximately
age 13 to age 30, because the rate of maturation into adulthood varies so widely that it
is impossible to say when or if it happens. Some children are thrust into adult situations
with adult problems at a very early age, and if they survive, become wise beyond their
years. Others get so caught up in childish attitudes for one reason or another that they
never seem to grow up. In any case, growing up, to a certain extent, means learning to
cope successfully with one's situation in life, and everyone's situation is different, so
"maturity" becomes a very subjective matter.
Since the specific responsibilities of a young adult can only be determined by
examining each life individually, we are again going to have to attempt to find some
general rules that apply to all, or at least most. We can start by remembering again
that the whole purpose of human life is to learn from the experiences to be had in the
world of time and space, and that even though it appears that we are individuals, there
is really only one of us in many forms.
In a perfect world, every young adult would have two perfect parents who
completely understood the situation and always provided wise counseling along with firm
and loving direction. This of course is almost never the case, so the adult-in-training has
to accept some of the responsibility for his or her own growth.
The truth is, and you can put this in the bank, THE WORLD IS PERFECT. It is
functioning at all times, with no exceptions, exactly the way it is supposed to. The so-
called problems that are encountered by young adults, young parents, and everyone else
come under the heading of growing pains. Just like the "problems" that are handed out
in math class at school, their purpose is to teach us how to solve problems. They are
not insurmountable obstacles, they are stepping stones.
The first necessity for a successful life is the realization at the earliest possible age
that this is how the world works, and instead of focusing on the difficulties we encounter,
we need to focus on our reaction to those difficulties. Only by the slow, day-to-day
efforts to understand ourselves and the others we contact will we make our current
problems dissolve as if by magic so that we can move on to the next ones. Anyone who
has survived the difficult transition period from childhood to adult status realizes that all
their problems didn't disappear, they just morphed into different, sometimes larger ones.
Our problems do not keep us from living, they are our life.
When young adults begin concentrating on the solutions to the problems that they
and others face, they suddenly become mature, for that attitude is maturity. Many of
them do, and for that reason alone, the society of human-kind can, and does at times
make real progress. Young people have a strong tendency to think that they are smarter
and more capable than the generation that came before them. There is nothing wrong
with this idea. They simply need to prove it. It is the ultimate responsibility of every new
generation to leave the planet and its life in better condition than they found it.
The dictionary tell us that the word mature means "fully developed". If not an
oxymoron, "fully developed" is at least a misleading expression because personal growth
never really stops. There is in most lives, however, a point at which maximum vitality
is reached, and the process of improvement slowly reverses and becomes entropy. This
need only happen on the physical level, and even then with wide variations of experience
Mental maturity is another matter, and we will be talking about that at some length
in chapter 5, so we won't dwell on it here. We will only remind ourselves that we human
beings do not have just one body. We have at least three: a physical body, a mental
body, and a spiritual body. It is very unusual for all three of these bodies to mature at
the same rate in anyone. Which of our bodies is in the best shape at any point is mostly
a matter of where we have placed most of our attention.
The world, or at least the human society, has other ideas. In general, the western
world considers us adults when we have lived here for 21 years. At that point we are
legally and morally responsible for our own choices. This is an arbitrary decision based on
society's need for order. We all know that many people are not very grown up at age 21,
while others act very responsibly much earlier than that.
The matter of personal responsibility, of course, is what this book is all about, and
it is clear that at some point in our lives we all have to be held accountable. The extent
to which we properly handle our own responsibilities is probably the best measure of
maturity. Those of us who won't be responsible are almost always in some kind of
difficulty, and the extreme cases usually end up being incarcerated in an institution where
their choices are limited. The message of society is clear. Make good choices for yourself,
or someone else will end up making them for you.
It's a pretty good system, and it's a microcosm on the physical level of what goes on
with our "souls" on a larger scale. In order for the creative force (God, if you prefer) to
truly experience the creation from every conceivable point of view, these individual points
(us) have to be allowed to make creative decisions of their own. This is called "free will",
and we all have it. Our choices are only limited by some of the features of the environ-
ment we have chosen to experience. If you dive into a swimming pool, you can choose to
stay submerged for as long as you want. Your free will determines whether you come up
for air when you need to or you stay there and drown.
The mature person will probably choose to swim to the surface for air so that he or
she can continue to enjoy the water. That's what grown up adults do in the real world.
They make choices that take into consideration the probably consequences of their action.
Sometimes this might indeed involve physical risk, but that can still be a mature choice if
it is done for the right reason.
A "fully developed" adult, whether 21 years old or 70 years old, will never say, "I
don't care how this affects anyone else, I'm going to do what I want to do"' What if
everyone did this? As we have said, we are all in this together, and it is quite impossible
for any of us to do something that does not affect someone else or the world in general.
Understanding this fact is , by definition, maturity, or "individual responsibility"'.
By the time a person has reached "senior" status in the eyes of the world, it is
logical to assume that he/she has accumulated enough information and experience to
make mostly correct life choices. While this is often true, and some cultures give special
attention to their elderly to tap this valuable resource, it is certainly not a universal
There are, unfortunately, many who have reached the age of their "declining" years
without ever accepting the responsibility for their own lives. If one has lived a long life
without placing emphasis on the development of all three aspects of their reality
(physical, mental, and spiritual), then the resulting imbalance in their personality is very
likely to have caused one or more kind of dependence.
The person who believes that the only life they have is the physical one bounded by
birth and death can become preoccupied with prolonging physical life at all costs, and
often throws that life on the mercy of medical science. While highly trained and caring
medical experts are a great blessing to society, they do not possess magical powers, and
can only work with the tools they have and the real condition of their patients.
A patient whose rigid, unbending attitude for an entire lifetime of 60 or 70 years
has produced physical symptoms such as arthritic joints cannot be "cured" by the
external application of any form of drugs or potions. By the same token, an individual
who has spent years in self-indulgence without much effort to be of service to others will
have a hard time avoiding loneliness in their old age, because the seeds of companionship
were not planted.
There is wonderful joy to be had in a long term of years on the earth, and oppor-
tunities for growth abound right up until the end. As we have said, even adversities like
the loss of loved ones or personal illness are powerful growth opportunities if they are
seen as such. If life on earth teaches us only one lesson, it should be the obvious one
that nothing is permanent. Change is the only reality. It is up to us to determine the
direction of the changes. Things will get better or worse for all of us depending on our
expectations and our daily thoughts and intentions.
The most evident change being faced by senior adults is the one referred to as
death. If one has done his or her homework, then this change will be accepted with
dignity and understanding instead of fear and regret. Old age has a responsibility to
set and example for ensuing generations, and leaving this earth with the right attitude is
one of the best legacies we can bequeath. Death, of course, is not death at all, but
merely the passing on to another of the endless wonderful rooms of this mansion called
creation. We will all get there, so it would be wiser to forget about it and concentrate on
what we are doing right or wrong while we're here.
This, then, is the ultimate responsibility of every human being, no matter what age.
To live each day in such a way that we, and everyone around us, grows a little closer to
the one-ness we share, and that we leave the world in better shape than we found it.
What if everybody did?