“I slept and dreamt / that life was a joy. / I awoke and saw that life was a duty. / I worked—and behold, / duty was a joy.
In my final, for now, essay on Viktor’s Frankl’s Yes to Life I find myself experiencing a twist regarding my search for meaning in life.
When Duty is An Option
Frankl offers two fresh options for our seeming eternal quest for some kind of meaning of this delightful and troublesome existence we call “life.” Answers to these question are comprised of both individual and socially responsibilities. Frankl suggests two ideas to ponder:
- “The question (of meaning of life) can no longer be “what can I expect from life” but ”what can life expect of me?””
- “So, life is somehow a duty, a single, huge obligation, And there certainly is joy in life too… Happiness [however] should not, must not, and can never be a goal, but only an outcome; the outcome of the fulfillment of that which Tagore’s poem called duty…” P. 32
These thoughts are perfectly in sync with Aristotle’s position, which I have held for years, “…the purpose of every person is to contribute to the value of society.” Our meaning in life is not so much predicated on how much we have accumulated as much as how much have we distributed.
The Call to Duty: Serve Others. Serve Self.
So what does life expect of me? I see two integrated opportunities: service AND the pleasure of “wonder.” My “duty” is to care for the earth and for those I am called to serve—the poor and the disenfranchised. But I believe I also have the duty to appreciate the wonder of creation. I am not merely thinking about nature, but also the creation of creative and valuable human kind, buildings, art, and ferocious love.
I am called to serve both, my duty to others and my duty to myself. In my worldview, all this is accomplished best in concert in a divine dance with the Creator, where divine partnership is joyful.
We are facing time in which communal and personal duties are interrelated gifts we offer to the world. Our specific activities that serve other people with all sorts of gifts kindness, actions to help, money, and leadership all lead to a restored society—one person at a time.
YOU Make the Difference
But I wonder if you know how much joy you bring into the lives of others when you offer love and optimism in a world of pessimism, divisiveness and an utter sense of hopeless ness.
Doing so is not only a pleasure… it is a duty. I am feel I am obligated to bring joy into the lives of others and doing so makes my life meaningful—to me and to those I love and serve.
Work and Behold
Duty is a Joy
Photo courtesy of Motortion at istockphoto