I slept and dreamed that life was joy, I awoke and saw that life was duty,

I acted and behold: duty was joy. ~Rabindranath Tagore

Duty is joy...huh??

What's that supposed to mean?

Most of us understand duty to be the things we are obliged to do, not what we want to do. We have no choice. I suppose we always have a choice, but when we don't perform our duty, there is always a price to pay.

Then how can duty be joyous?

How can it not be?

Duties are responsibilities. What are some of our everyday duties? Cook meals, clean the house, pay bills, gas up the car. We need to do these jobs. When we don't, we can find ourselves hungry, harassed by bill collectors or stranded by the side of the road with our thumb out.

Not attending to our duties leads to inconvenience, frustration, low morale, potentially even illness. The longer we avoid them, the greater our unhappiness. Dodging duties suppresses our emotional state while fulfilling them elevates us. Puts a smile on our face.

The duties listed above provide a foundational, day-to-day comfort. But let's crank it up a few notches. Here are a some more of our duties as we serve our time on earth:

We have the duty to see the good in everyone. Does this sometimes seem impossible? Of course! How does seeing the good in everyone create joy? Because it is reality. There is good in everyone. Whenever we accept a challenging reality, a level of joy spontaneously emerges.

We have the duty to admit our mistakes, realize their consequences and make amends. How does this bring joy? Every hurt we do unto others also brings equal or greater hurt unto ourselves. By courageously and sorrowfully admitting our transgressions we ease another's suffering and our own. This is true joy.

We have the duty to be grateful. Why a duty? Again, gratitude is simply an acknowledgment of reality. Without support of friends and family, innumerable natural resources, untold thousands of others' talents--then what? We need them. Acknowledging and appreciating our interdependent humanity brings us joy!

We have the duty to continually improve ourselves and to enhance the lives of others. You and I were given this remarkable gift of life, the greatest gift of all. The most effective way we can express our appreciation is to unwaveringly accept our duty to make other lives better. Family members, friends, neighbors, clients, co-workers, even strangers.

You and I have the power and subsequently duty to bring as much joy, kindness, wisdom and inspiration into the world as we can.

Reporting for duty, m'am!

Lucky us!

Burt Gershater is a counselor, author and motivational speaker living in Flagstaff. Visit www.burtgershater.com or contact him at info@burtgershater.com.

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