Duty-bound or Duty-free?

Winter sunrise over Mt. Taranaki, New Zealand.
One of my current obsessions concerns personal integrity: am I being true to who I feel I am? The whole question of whether I am being sincere, whether I am responding in my integrity, if I am being authentic. Why is this so important to me? Well… I think the photo above spells it out beautifully: I’d rather be the real thing than a reflection.
In my last post, Who You Are, I suggested that one needs first to know who one is before one kind decide what to do about it in life. Here, my focus is on the mechanism we use – if used at all – to refer to authority; and which authority we choose to follow, in turn.
One of the essential airport experiences for me (in past years of existing in the breaths between an incessant & crazy itinerant lifestyle) has always been the duty-free section. Funny title really, ‘excise duty’… and it seems to me equally odd how society expects us to exercise duty, however that is legally or culturally defined. None of us can really exist or thrive, duty-free, in our modern world. Yet, as we see all around us, those who feel duty-bound to act within society’s expectations aren’t really thriving either. Perhaps the truth lies in the title: when we feel bound by the rules & regulations of others, of outside authorities, we find ourselves entrapped. Not so much by the machinations of those outside authorities themselves, as much as by the attitude held by ourselves. The biblical reference, that ‘no man can serve two masters’ springs to mind here…except that in this case the inference is the choice between focusing on a personal connection to God, or to a personal affinity with making money!
 What I mean in this context is something more akin to the following:
“To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”
Douglas Adams
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”
Bob Marley
To my mind, when we choose ‘duty’ – however defined & in whatever context – we equally choose to negate another crucial duty: the duty we have to our self. To our personal integrity, to our sincere personal understanding & code of ethics: to our authenticity, to our own sovereign being. I’m not urging revolution here! No one else in the whole world is duty-bound to ourselves, to the extent that we are. And it’s arguable that a sense of duty kills many marriages & friendships: by substituting what the other wants & needs with what it is judged prudent they should be given. Duty to an outer authority is a means to avoid thinking, listening, communicating, it could be said: to ensuring automated, habitual responses. Much in the same way as when we phone a utility company or government department, and we receive either an automated response, or worse, an automated response by a fellow human being.
I find it interesting both quotations above downgrade the importance of money & riches, in favour of our own personal riches: the wealth of internal wisdom & creative genius at our constant command. If we allow ourselves not only the opportunity to access it, but the decision to live it & share it with the world around us. Is this our real duty? Rather than constantly adapting to, and championing, a society that cares little, if at all, for individual wisdom & creative genius?
And why should it? It’s our responsibility to ensure we live our lives, not society’s. No one else is either going to tell us to champion our innate genius (except in the occasional blog maybe!), or help us much in following a course of action that might be viewed as leaning sideways. But…they are more likely to build a monument in honour of your achievements, or name a high school after you, when you’re long gone! Just think of that…

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