Marilynne Robinson’s Self-Reliance


A lot of things can’t be dealt with on a cultural level. One thing interesting about being human is that you are responsible to a great degree for your own sanity, your own ethicalism, your own moral solvency, your own intellectual seriousness. It would be nice if these things could be dealt with at a social level, but whenever human behavior is controlled at a social level, even with the most benign intentions, it goes wrong. I think there is no point in history where people have not used valuable things for destructive purposes.

Perhaps what we have to do is make people feel more deeply that they are responsible as individuals for their moral consequences. For example, I think a lot of religious excesses don’t come from religious themselves; they come from passionate identifications, the eagerness to say I am x and not Y, and those Y people have always irritated me and it would be much better if the world were entirely X. We’ve gone thorugh this little dance over and over. If we could think beyond those categories that would be great, but that’s something people are individually responsible for doing.


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