A scratchbook for my thoughts on the meandering paths of life.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Duty and Meaning

Today I'm thinking about duty. What is my duty? In order to fulfill myself as a human being, must I not understand my duty?

In this sense, you could replace the word "duty" with "meaning" and it would sound the same. But "meaning" is a philosophical concept that refers to some kind of internal understanding of things, while "duty" is less an understanding and more the actions one takes to move one's life in a chosen direction. This chosen direction, based on our sense of duty, is, in its essence, driven and shaped by our sense of meaning.

So I don't feel I can speak of duty without at least implying the fundamental questions of meaning (who am I? why am I  here? etc.).

There are different levels of duty. First is my duty to my body and maintaining my life. Though competing for the natural number one is my duty to my son. I must care and provide for both and seek to enable the happiness of both. There is family and there are friends. We are all familiar with these.

But are there not higher duties? What about my duty to humanity? If I am here for a reason, is it not my duty to pursue the realization of that reason? Might I even go so far as to say that, if I believe that I do indeed have a duty to humanity, that all selfish pursuits are in conflict with my duty?

In fact I do think that. But other principles of life must soften this approach so that I look for a middle way. I cannot disregard all selfish pursuits. If I could, most likely I would already be fully attuned to my duty and my meaning and would not need to be writing this. Furthermore, I am selfish and anything I pursue in accordance with my sense of duty to humanity will necessarily also serve me. But there is nothing unusual about the struggle to maintain humility in the face of achievements. It is just another pair of opposites, whose intimate relationship with each other form the opposite edges of the one path on which every human must walk in his endeavor to be more, to serve humanity and not himself, to become a moving force that participates in creating the flowing river of human evolution.

So quite expectedly, as I started by connecting duty and meaning, my train of thought leads to the obvious conclusion: My truest duty is to realize that which I truly believe.

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