On Irresponsibility

In Dave Humphrey’s comment on Depth, Frequency, and Promiscuity, he suggests that the idea of rigour is often related to a certain professionalism, and he opposes to this professional rigour a kind of amateur irresponsibility in the use of “texts, and theories, and ingredients.” I am in substantial agreement with this idea, though I would suggest that there are responsibilities that I owe even and especially as an amateur in the sense that he is describing.

To the extent that an amateur irresponsibility is one that refuses to make itself responsible to an institution, or a discipline, or mode of publication, or an editor, or an anonymous reading public, to this extent, I affirm the amateurism that Dave is advocating. What I want, and what the web permits, is a writing and a publishing that escapes precisely these responsibilities. Irresponsibility of this kind comes at a cost to me, certainly, but the cost purchases a freedom to be responsible in other ways, in ways that are far more significant to me.

These other responsibilities arise, not in connection to an institution or a profession, but in relation to people and to the texts they share. I want always to have done what I can to make myself responsible to the friends with whom I am in conversation, to the authors and texts that I am reading, and to the texts that I am writing. I want always to have been rigorous in these relations, not out of a professionalism, but out of a sincere respect. I want always to have done what is proper in these relations, not out of a social expectation, but out of a sincere love. This kind of responsibility is the only reason that I write at all, and I want never to have been irresponsible in this sense, not to any extent, though I will always have failed in this responsibility to one extent or another, even now.

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