The Responsibility of Awareness

Imagine a world where everyone walks around with their eyes closed. Infants use their eyes, and as they grow older, they begin to ask questions about what they see; unfortunately, as the adults all have their eyes closed, they are unable to answer their children’s inquiries. Some simply respond with things like “I don’t understand your question,” others make up answers based on what they do know, and some accuse the children of hallucinating or making things up (with varying degrees of amusement, condescension, and reprimand).

The children eventually follow the lead of all the adults they know, out of admiration, desire for approval, or fear of punishment. They do this for long enough that they forget that they ever could see, that they had eyes that could open. They interact with the world mainly based on how they imagine it to be, rather than how it actually is.

The adults in this world tend to bump into each other, sometimes hurting each other. When this occurs, they often get angry with each other, assuming the other party was malicious in their action. They never consider their own culpability.

Now and then, an adult open their eyes. They immediately recognize that everyone around them has their eyes shut. They suddenly understand why people all keep bumping into each other, tripping, and causing general havoc. They try to tell people that their eyes are closed, but they are met with confusion at best and anger at worst. No one wants to hear this.

The person is then disheartened and tries to close their eyes again, but they can’t maintain it. They know that seeing gives them a huge advantage. The problem is that it is also a huge responsibility. Now they can see the person who is about to knock them over, and they must step out of the way. They see the person who is about the trip and feel compelled to warn them. It can be very frustrating to this person, all this responsibility; why will no one else open their eyes? They wonder why they themselves opened their eyes and regret it at times.

Then they see someone else with their eyes open. They are relieved to finally have someone to talk to, someone who can help them process the burden they have unwittingly shouldered. This support system enables them to get through to some people, who open their eyes. They are horrified by what they see, and try to close their eyes again, and hate the person who convinced them to open them. They attack them and sometimes enlist others to their cause.

The people who opened their eyes on their own feel guilt for pushing others to open their eyes who couldn’t handle it. They are upset that their good intentions are met with such hostility. There are many possible reactions at this stage, but they all lead back to the same point: they eventually learn to interact with people in such a way where they accept that their eyes are shut, and gently guide them at times, hoping that they will eventually think of opening their eyes themselves. They can be patient with these other people because they know what a burden it is to have your eyes open, to feel responsible not only for yourself but for those around you, but still not be able to help them directly. They don’t blame them for keeping their eyes closed.

Awareness is a big responsibility. There is no coming back from it. You will often feel punished. But ultimately it’s less painful than oblivion. If you understand why you keep getting hurt, you can learn to avoid it. You learn compassion for those you used to blame. The learning keeps on coming, and you grow. The alternative is stagnation in the shadows of your own self-deception. Sticking to our myths is a lot easier, but nothing worth doing is easy. Nevertheless, if you are aware, it is important to be patient with those who are not. They can’t see what they’re doing.

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