I spent a great deal of time after high school, and into my early to mid-twenties, and especially while living in New York City, thinking: just thinking. Thinking of reality, and of existence, and of thought, and of feeling, and of beauty, and of life. I am an aesthetic existentialist, which is to say that I took two schools of philosophy that apply to my worldview and created an amalgam, for the purpose of this column.
What I was writing, while I was deeply consumed in all of this…thinking, reflected a naturalistic style, similar to that of Ralph Waldo Emerson, or Henry David Thoreau. My style has changed, I’m sure, most likely because I’ve written primarily fiction for a decade, and, equally as likely, because I’ve grown cynical and bitter towards humanity, at least as I have experienced it, directly.
Sitting down this afternoon it was my intention to write an essay, of sorts—a practical column—on accountability, and how, as a foundation of principle, being accountable has a positive influence on our attitudes: our ego (selfishness), ambition (intention), insight (interactions). This concept is difficult to approach. It has its claws in so many facets of our presence that to explore it duly would necessitate a series of columns, a collection of essays—a book.
Our circles of understanding—the worldview that we’ll eventually develop—develops as we develop: through infancy our circle consists, entirely, of our immediate family, the beliefs, understandings, and reactions of our: parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, and grandparents. We start school and our circles grow, slightly, to the inner walls of our pre-school and our kindergarten classes. We do not experience another dramatic change until we’re old enough to start cultivating our own friendships, and then we allow those friendships to again influence our beliefs, our understandings, and our reactions. Our circle will change, again only slightly, as we get older and move into middle and high school, as the people around us change, and then again when we start working our first jobs, and begin developing an understanding of our reality as a consumer. But moving away from home is the next great circle of development. And no, I don’t mean moving three blocks down the road to nearest apartment complex from your parent’s house, or even twenty miles—the next closest city. It is important to move away from somewhere familiar, and comfortable, to a place where people think and believe differently than you, where you are forced to open your processes to a completely different, and new set of ideas, and perceptions. In many ways I believe that this circle is the most important circle for us to expand, and to develop, because I believe that it is in this stage that we develop accountability.
We, of course, continue to change regardless: biologically, emotionally, psychologically, as we grow older, it’s all part of a system that we cannot control or avoid, and yet we can ebb, peter out, level-off, and possibly recede from progress that we may have previously made. I believe that accountability is learned during this stage, within this circle of development we are offered one of the greatest, and most important life lessons. Of course, though, because accountability can be learned I cannot say that it is impossible to develop otherwise, and conversely impossible to reject, as well. In my experience I have noticed that cultivating accountability within your most familiar, and comfortable environment is exceptionally difficult, and the result, more-often-than-not, especially when you surround yourself by others in a similar position is quite the opposite. We, for reasons that I’m not going to explore in this column, develop, instead, a Randian mindset towards accountability. As a result of very little change in our lives, but still being able to recognize the importance of having people in our lives, we might become so internally focused, when surrounded by the same people and environments indefinitely, that we introspectively do not recognize a difference between ourselves and our surroundings, and when this influences our dreams, the directions we invent for our lives, and the futures that we covet, accountability can develop somewhat manipulated.
This lack of accountability can look like an intentional refusal to acknowledge a failing, or to be more apt to find the fault in others, in any particular situation, while going to great lengths to disregard, and ignore our own, and sometimes this is an intentional refusal to acknowledge our own short-comings, but when those who do ignore their failings end up being the first to endorse themselves as accountable, responsible human beings it is possible that those few simply do not know how to accept responsibility, and while it may be easy for others, the ability to acknowledge the weight of the impact of being wrong, could be inherently difficult, and so soliciting accountability might seem the only means in which to become accountable.
However, I am an existentialist, and as such, the belief that one weak link in the whole of humanity is the limitation that we all suffer. I think it feels good to be responsible, as terrifying as it may also seem, once you have taken the leap, and accepted the reality. The first few steps are the most difficult, because it requires acknowledging your failings, and then yourself as fallible, and also accepting that life, regardless of who you think you are, or who you think anyone else is, continues on, and any discomfort is only momentary. We have a tendency, as humans, to think in extremes, the apogee of all we know, and believe, and are exists entirely in this present moment, and though there is a degree of truth to that—consciously, and spiritually—for us to allow that truth to create worry, or to inhibit us, is inherently detrimental to our development. Living in the present, for the moment, while allowing that moment to exist absolute is a misunderstanding of our own intention, and therefore of our existence.
With that said, there are people who have such a skewed concept of Randian philosophy (acknowledge that a persons’ worldview will align with a philosophy whether they are familiar with it or not) that they have developed a bizarre, and crippling attitude, which will only negatively affect both you and the people around you. These people are inherently, and philosophically selfish. Selfish people latch on to altruistic, selfless people and they oblige their transgressions; the selfless allow the selfish to maintain, untainted. Of course, however, this is their illusion, the illusion of the selfish intention. It’s easy to get caught up in the act. And the very act of the selfish bleeds the selfless. It’s almost too silent, and ambiguous to notice, and when this occurs accountability is merely a mirage, a contextual precept of semantic disillusionment. What the selfless become, if extinguishment is allowed, is not selfish themselves, they become a stooge, pawned and planted wherever is deemed necessary, they get caught up in a loop, a cycle, surrounded, almost intentionally, by the selfish so that they might appear irrational, in order for the selfish, the unaccountable, to feel conventional—normal. The only way to escape the routine, they only real way to maintain any semblance of your humanity is to let them go. Selfish people are also drawn to other selfish people, because their strength lies entirely in validation.
Accountability demands faith and acceptance in our existence, and our being able to understand that: we change, our environments change, or opinions change, our perspectives changes, our bodies change, our life changes; being accountable does not mean ceding control—though this would be constructive—it is simply a recognition that being right, or being wrong, is an illusion, and either will affect you only as much as the car you drive, or the clothes that you wear, or the job that you work. Accountability allows for transparency, for acceptance, for truth, and for creation, in addition to gratification, self-reliance, and honesty. It’s easy to simply live, without taking responsibility for the world, and the type of world we want to live in.