Responsibility by Joe Dees


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Some solicitous souls would advise us
To relinquish all attempts to guide our own futures
To surrender control rather than to strive for it
And to submit to the rule of celestial will
Humbly accepting its divine dictation
Rather than to possess the monumental
Temerity and prideful gall of endeavor
To try to choose our own life paths.

But we cannot move the leaden weight
Of our freedom from our shoulders
Simply by claiming to have shifted it elsewhere.
We may indeed choose
To embrace such self-delusions;
Our world will not be so easily fooled:
We are still the ones deciding – and who must -
Whether or not we acknowledge it.

We were not sculpted
By the hand of some vast spirit
In its transcendental image;
Rather it is the other way around
And that such beliefs
Have shaped many actions
And therefore our common history
Proves not that it was molded
By a believed-in other.

We fabricated our gods and satans
From the suns and shadows of our souls.
The absolutes of human virtues
Were assigned as deific attributes
And abstracted human vices
Are reckoned as demonic traits.

And when we beseech them in prayer, it is
Whether ‘tis beknownst to us or not
Our greater, or higher
Or deeper selves to whom we appeal.
We also ask our gods to bless for us
Those whom we ourselves
In our thoughts bless
And the same goes for damnation.

Such profound imprinting of our desires
Upon our psyches’ templates
Leads us to strive for their fulfillment
In ways both conscious and subliminal
And thus may prayers be effortfully answered.

Karma requires not reincarnation.
Its retributions and rewards
May be suffered and enjoyed
Within the same lifetime
In which our actions conjure them.
Whatever actions we apply to others
Whether they be well or ill
Will most likely be returned to us by them
In both extent and kind.

Nevertheless, we cannot depend upon life to be fair.
It lies beyond or beneath such human categories
And no cosmic authority mandates such things.
It simply is what it is
And whatever we choose to make of it.
The concepts of Heaven and Hell
Were themselves purified and crystallized
From the joys and sorrows of our experience
And how we build our lives decides
Which ideal house our dwellings more resemble.

And although we cannot possess
Full mastery over our forthcomings
As would an oarman
Paddling in a lake of placid possibility
Neither should we see ourselves
Being bourne helplessly downstream
Limbs bound
Swept by a maelstrom of descending events.

Rather, we are rowing in moving waters
And both events and ourselves
May move within them:
Events in whatever way the flow of causation dictates
Ourselves insomuch as the power of the current
And the strength of our effort allows.
Each pull on the sculls opens some possible courses
And closes others;
We happen to life as surely as it happens to us.

So, although we lack absolute sway over our eventualites
We yet have some say concerning what will happen with us.
And yet, it is we who are held accountable for it all
Even for those occurrences whose courses elude our grasp.
Our responsibilities exceed our freedoms
Yet we are the only ones who
In the final analysis
Can be honestly held responsible for our fates:
Even by ourselves.
It’s all on, and up to, us.