Joy and duty

Since perceiving the unity of duality in my thinking, there is another duality which requires a moment of attention: that between joy and duty – between what we want to do, and what we must or should do.

I have written extensively about joy as a fundamental motivation of the soul. I think it is the spirit, the wind, that bears our wings aloft. Duty, on the other hand, concerns the wings themselves.

The wind of spirit is formless, changing, and immensely powerful. it can only be harnessed if our wings are placed correctly in the flow, and angled for the ascent. Some add to the wind by flapping hard; some soar on the steady breeze. In short: If joy relates to the call of the spirit and the soul’s inspiration, perhaps duty is the requirements of form and the needs of this world. Success lies in the balance of the two.

If we are a lover in pursuit of his Beloved, holding to duty alone would be like striving for the Beloved because we should love Him. Joy is simply being near Him. It has nothing to do with us, or shoulds, or anything else. However, we cannot walk along the path without feet; we cannot orient ourselves without a compass; we cannot move without respecting the exigencies of motion.

As with duality of vision – where our eyes see one world and our inner sight another – so duty and joy can be harmonized. It is not what we do alone that justifies our action, or whether it causes us pleasure, but the unity of the two: the unity of becoming. Without heeding both sides, material and spiritual, our growth is hindered. Too much in one direction causes our wings to stall.

So as we feel the peerless wind running through our feathers, we must exert energy to beat our wings and loft higher. In the mind’s eye we know our destination, but it requires mortal eyes to scout the path. Both kinds of vision demand respect. Even as a poet writes in words and meter, his inspiration cannot substitute for a pen. Both parts assist in the task. Yet there is really only one nature. As with any unity, the parts combine to form a harmonious spirit if allowed to interplay.

The aim, then, is growth, becoming, deepening in the quality of being. It is to be, to the richest extent: happiness in the present, and morality guiding the future. It is similar to how a craftsman approaches his task: He draws up a plan, and sets to building. He holds to the plan as best he can, but he does not gauge his work simply by asking if the plan is being fulfilled. He looks at the structure coming to be, and seeks a kind of “right feeling”, a kind of joy, in what he sees. He can tell from that feeling if the building or the plan needs changing. He looks for a harmony between his joy and the requirements of the plan.

This is a challenge, of course, because it is all too easy to focus on one and not the other (as I know from experience, and from watching others). Once we make a plan, it’s easy to forgo constant assessment of the process; or else it’s easy to look at our feelings, and ignore the needs of the plan. Yet both are parts of the unity of growing.

I relate this to my daily life whenever I look to plan my future. I want to follow the moral path with willing feet. I want to serve people from a desire to serve them, since acting without such desire is only too evident. To find this way of balancing duty and joy, I must seek what is best for all. And perhaps, if I ascend high enough in my vision of things, and come to see people as my true Beloved, what is best for the world will be the same as what is best for me.