Springingtiger's Blog

The Language of Choice 2: Responsibility


Werner Erhard’s assertion, How do you know what you chose? It’s what you got!” always caused controversy in the est Training. Participants always had objections: ‘a child doesn’t choose to be abused!’, ‘I didn’t choose to be raped!’, ‘I didn’t choose to have cancer!’ The est position was that there is a difference between choice and responsibility. Est also believes that an unconscious choice remains a choice.

There is a popular metaphysical argument that we choose the circumstances of our lives prior to entering the womb, a conscious choice of which we become unconscious after birth  ̶  the belief that there is nothing before nor after death is equally valid, but no more true. This point of view says that we have chosen the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Unfortunately people tend to think of this as a matter of blame.

As long as our choices are imposed upon us by others or by circumstances they afford us little power or possibility. Werner would argue that power comes from taking responsibility for our choices however unconscious they may have been. Responsibility has nothing to do with blame, but everything to do with reclaiming our power over our own lives. As long as we refuse responsibility for our choices we remain victims. In est terms we remain ‘at effect’, that is to say our lives are under the control of other people and circumstances. When we take responsibility we put ourselves ‘at cause’; we stop blaming others, the world, our parents, God or whatever, and take control of our lives. Do the events and circumstances of our lives change? Perhaps not, however how we respond to them does. When we are at effect life rolls over us, but when we are at cause we make our lives roll. Being responsible allows us to act as we choose not as others choose for us.

When we become responsible our abusers don’t cease to be abusers, those seeking to hurt us or damage us may continue to do so. However there is no longer a cause and effect relationship with them their actions are nothing to do with us and we are neither to blame nor responsible for their actions or attitudes. There is no longer an ‘our little secret’, but rather there is ‘your little secret’ I can speak out if I choose. There may be consequences from exercising our power. As long as we are at effect those consequences enslave us to our circumstances and the whims of others. We choose our experience for ourselves, when we are ‘at cause’ the source of love in our lives is not another person, but within ourselves and that love is not dependent on the will or actions of others. At cause we choose our own beliefs rather than having them imposed upon us. We are no longer bound by convention and whether we choose to honour convention ̶ and sometimes it may serve us to do so ̶ is entirely our choice.

There is no free choice without responsibility. As long as our choices are determined by others, by convention, religious teaching, emotional blackmail, even the law, we have no freedom to choose, but are just puppets. After we have become free and become responsible we may continue to do many of the things we did before, but now we do so freely because we choose to, not because we ought to do them but because it serves our free will do do so. Before enlightenment the Zen monk chopped wood and drew water because that was the rule, but after he chopped wood and drew water because he chose to.


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