I translate line 3 and 12 in Chapter 57 as Use non-responsibility when seeking all under heaven, and I am without responsibility and the people thrive themselves respectively.
I know suggesting that non-responsibility as an ethical virtue flies in the face of ‘common sense’. Like free will, explicit or implied, being responsible is highly valued by society.
As I see it, we cling to very narrow views on both issues. (I’ve written much on free will, e.g., see Mind in Body in Mind in Body…xin and of course, Free Will: Fact or Wishful Thinking?. These do tie in with the whole notion of responsibility.)
First, briefly consider the idea of what being responsible (1) implies. Essentially, you respond to circumstances in a thoughtful, informed, deliberate, way. That sound great doesn’t it; if only it were true! Next, consider this research, Brain cells know which way you’ll bet (2), reported recently in Science News. It hammer just another nail in the coffin of free choice, responsibility and control.
This latest research shows that, rather than being the principle actor in control and consciously deciding ‘right from wrong’ and such, we are after the fact observers of what happens naturally. This is a terribly humbling fact for the ego to accept. Therefore, we don’t. ‘I’ want to be responsible and in control. Even more, ‘I’ want you to be responsible and in control. Indeed, society wants this so desperately that we’ve come to believe it an achievable reality. Come to think of it, this parallels our belief (3) in God and the like. No wonder chapter 71 says, Realizing I don’t know is superior, not knowing this realization is a defect.
Perhaps a more realistic way to see the thinking side of human awareness is as an observer after the fact. It is safe and sane to witness what is happening each moment by moment. Serious problems arise when, projecting our own needs and fears onto our observations, we trap ourselves in all the abstract judgments we make (and lug around in memory, often throughout life).
Many of our problems in life come from how we respond to stimuli. We ‘shoot ourselves in the foot’ as Buddha’s Second Truth points out: The surrounding world affects sensation and begets a craving thirst that clamors for immediate satisfaction. The illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things. The desire to live for the enjoyment of self entangles us in a net of sorrows. Pleasures are the bait and the result is pain.
Be involved using non-responsibility.
Initially, any talk of non-responsibility evokes fears of either withdrawing from life or wreaking havoc on life. Frankly, neither is true. The benefit of non-responsibility is in how it places more time and space between the stimulus of circumstance and desire (4). It is like an ongoing “count to ten before reacting” approach to most of life. Non-responsibility is part and parcel of the somewhat clichéd “Wu Wei”. For example, chapter 63 says,
The “involved” (of chapter 63) and “responsibility” (of chapter 57) are synonym-like variations of the same character 事 (shì ; matter; affair; thing; business; trouble; accident; job; work; responsibility; involvement; wait upon; serve; be engaged in). “Doing” mostly amounts to reacting to stimuli. Our reactions to the stimuli are easily blown out of proportion by an urgent sense of involvement and responsibility.
Using non-responsibility helps avoid the chaos of over-reaction by keeping awareness present rather than hung up in the dramas of the past or future. In action, good is present (move (stir; act; change; arouse) good ( satisfactory; succeed) time (hour; current; present). Here also, awareness approaches the entrance of the profound female; this is called the origin of the universe. When you relinquish responsibility and control, a ‘higher power’, Dark and dark again—mysterious, comes into view.
Deluding ourselves into thinking we (or others) are in control of our (or their) life is not helpful in the long run. Living a lie never is, in the long run. Gradually, science is peeling away the myths that have long misdirected us. How long will it take us to accept the evidence? Alas, I notice that we seem to only take-to-heart that which we are willing and ready to hear—need to hear. Or to put it more obscurely, Our words are very easy to know, very easy to do. Under heaven none can know, none can do.
Finally, a word on this goofy graphic at the top.
All discussions of free will that I’ve encountered bounce between some version of free will vs. determinism. I suppose this worn out debate stems from haggling over archaic points of view, the Christian concept of predestination, the theological paradox of free will, and Newtonian physics. Simple biological need addresses the issue of choice perfectly, if you can accept the fact that we are like any other animals.
Sure, we have a ‘big’ brain, but dogs have ‘big’ noses, eagles have ‘big’ eyes. Yet, we all do what we do out the needs or fears we feel at the moment. Humans have long displayed an aversion to seeing themselves as integral to nature. Somehow, driven by species centric ego, we need to see ourselves as ‘superior’, and devise all manner of scenarios to prove it so. Personally, I think this is a consequence of how thought disconnects us from the rest of nature. Feeling alone, we compensate for this with a superiority complex. Are you out of touch with nature? speaks to some of this.
Admittedly, Compatibilism does seem to get beyond the narrower views of this issue. As Arthur Schopenhauer said “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills”. Or, as I might put it, we can do what we feel a need to do; we can’t choose what need to feel. Need is the bottom line in all animals, including humans.
Responsibility noun, plural -ties.
1. the state or fact of being responsible.
2. an instance of being responsible: The responsibility for this mess is yours!
3. a particular burden of obligation upon one who is responsible: the responsibilities of authority.
5. reliability or dependability, especially in meeting debts or payments.
1. answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control, or management (often followed by to or for ): He is responsible to the president for his decisions.
2. involving accountability or responsibility: a responsible position.
3. chargeable with being the author, cause, or occasion of something (usually followed by for ): Termites were responsible for the damage.
4. having a capacity for moral decisions and therefore accountable; capable of rational thought or action: The defendant is not responsible for his actions.
5. able to discharge obligations or pay debts.
1. an answer or reply, as in words or in some action.
2. Biology . any behavior of a living organism that results from an external or internal stimulus.
(2) Brain Research:
Researchers enlisted eight people undergoing experimental therapy to alleviate severe depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder that involved implanting electrodes deep into the brain.
During surgery, the electrodes eavesdropped on the behavior of individual nerve cells in an otherwise unreachable area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. Other places in the brain feed lots of diverse signals to the nucleus accumbens: Information about a person’s emotions, memories and more sophisticated reasoning — key ingredients for decision making — all flow into this area.
While in the operating room, participants played a simplified version of the card game “War,” in which two players each receive a card, and the higher card wins. Participants saw a video screen with their card face up next to a face-down opponent’s card. After a short wait, the players pushed one of two buttons to bet either $5 or $20 that they’d beat their opponent. Finally, the face-down card was flipped over, and the participants saw the results of their wager.
Meanwhile, researchers detected 19 nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens that seemed to be involved in the betting. Electrical signals from these cells predicted whether a person would bet high or low. Most surprisingly, this nerve cell pattern was evident about 2.8 seconds before a player pushed a button — a delay so long that it’s “unheard of in neuroscience,” Patel said.
These nerve cells receive information from other brain systems and call the shots fast, before the rest of the brain catches up, Patel said. “The brain is presumably calculating these things before you’re conscious of it.”
(4) Stimulus of circumstance and desire:
Desire is simply the blending of visceral need + thought. All living things experience need. This and its partner fear are the motive forces that drive survival. See How the Hookwink Hooks and Two Paths for a few more angles on this.