This week I contemplated obligation. I had not put a name to what was swirling around in my consciousness until this morning, when I happened upon the latest episode of Hidden Brain, a podcast I am enamored with.
Near the end, Bill Maurer, an anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, said this:
“This is kind of a paradox of, you know, modern subjects in contemporary Western societies is that, you know, we think of ourselves as individuals first and members of relationships second, even though, of course, it’s only through relationships that we get formed, right?”
That tension that occurs when the obligations are brought forward and there is a clash between what I would call the lie of the modern age that we are all autonomous individuals who can choose our own destiny free from the relationships that formed us and what I would call the truth that, actually, we are all tied to each other in a web of obligations that sometimes serve us and feel great and sometimes feel like a burden and something we would rather not be part of.
But — I will submit that tensions, mental health issues, society break down, etc happens when we ignore these obligations. And, stay with me here: We tend to really want to keep the obligations that serve us and ditch the obligations that feel uncomfortable.
And — I really think that it is possible that we have to accept the whole package.