Often lately I've been contemplating “responsibility,” both as a concept and a word. To say we have a responsibility means, as is quite literally enumerated in the word itself, your ability to respond; eg. your “response-ability.” It's not so much an abstract construct as it is a general disposition contingent on your capacity to notice events, people, and objects around you and thus 'compute' your responses to such based on your available repertoire of abilities. At its most basic form, it's nothing more than how you respond to life and all events, people, and objects in it. In its higher form, it's also what initiatives one's intention to respond may generate and thus entail.
Ultimately, both basic and higher form response-ability are unavoidable. To attempt to abdicate either is simply to stand in petrified denial of life itself. The beautiful thing, however, is that there is no concrete road-map or template with which to assuage existential angst or command yourself with unwavering certainty as to what a 'correct' response would be or might look like. Some of the more philosophically traumatized writers of the past century have presented this as a terrifying state of affairs in the absence of the illusory certainty previously provided by Judaeo-Christianity, often topping off a similar diatribe about the ambiguity inherent in one's choosing how to respond in any given circumstance with, “and now man is utterly alone in the universe, condemned to act and react to life in its totality on the fragmentary and thus flawed moral and ethical merits devised and implemented by himself, and himself alone.”
This is one of many 19th and 20th century philosophical examples (paraphrased and reduced from the writings of many nihilists, existentialists, post-structuralists, etc.) of the psychic overcompensation for the loss of God in the general cultural metanarrative(s) of our day. This was expected even by Nietzsche, the man who himself declared God dead when he wrote: “After Buddha was dead, his shadow was still shown for centuries in a cave - a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. And we still have to vanquish his shadow, too.” In the absence of God, our metanarratives became, at best, emptier, more confusing, seemingly illegible—while at worst, they morphed into vacuous black-holes that sucked away all that was previously thought so sacred and meaningful in our lives.
Either way, the important point is that a collective psychological wound was inflicted upon us, and as all organisms do when wounded, we recoiled in pain. But since it was a collective reflex recorded in detail for posterity through the work of many brilliant thinkers, many of us became as immersed in and as convinced of these new insights like they were eternal religious truths, something to fill the gaping hole of meaning left by God, even if this 'meaning' described its central meaningful insight as 'meaninglessness.' Some philosophers and their readers thus found the certainty they had lost in their new doctrinal uncertainty. In other words, they were no longer simply uncertain; they were certainly uncertain. Even if this led to bleakness in perspective, some of those who felt they needed the guarantee of certainty were willing to go to the darkest corners of the psyche to find it.
In this certain uncertainty, many of us fell for the illusion of a fiercely hyperbolic individuality and lost our ability to respond meaningfully to life, because life, though certain in its uncertainty, remained as dead as before. This describes the state and sensation of abdicating responsibility (response-ability) on both key levels, and demonstrates the petrified denial of life itself that results from and embodies this attitude.
It is my assertion that we now have the will and ability to cross this horizon of hopelessness in human thinking. By taking responsibility for ourselves, holding a belief in our honest heroics, truly cultivating our ability to respond to anything life does or can throw at us without compromise, and trusting our impulses to meaning without becoming intoxicated by neatly ordered systematized worldviews that appear to offer us some form of certainty equivalent to the old self-evident religious truths we've lost, and if we can do all of this without rejecting meaning wholesale whenever we lack the old conventional resorts provided by ready-made worldviews, we'll once again wake ourselves up and ask the most important question of all: “is it not beautiful?”