01 August 2006

Duty


“...For three thousand years architects designed buildings with columns shaped as female figures. At last Rodin pointed out that this was work too heavy for a girl. He didn’t say, ‘Look, you jerks, if you must do this, make it a brawny male figure.’ No, he showed it. This poor little caryatid has fallen under the load. She’s a good girl - look at her face. Serious, unhappy at her failure, not blaming anyone, not even the gods... and still trying to shoulder her load, after she’s crumbled under it.

Robert Heinlein - Stranger In A Strange Land

Do not confuse 'duty' with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect. But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is with the leech who wants 'just a few minutes of your time, please — this won't take long.' Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time — and squawk for more! So learn to say No — and to be rude about it when necessary. Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you. (This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don't do it because it is 'expected' of you.)

Robert Heinlein - Time Enough For Love

6 comments:

vanillabirdies said...

brilliant quotes. i had forgotten all about heinlein.

you made an interesting contrast between the two quotes...

the duty of what we have to do in life and why we do it and the female "failing" at her duty and blaming only herself while "still trying to shoulder her load, after she's crumbled under it"

duty and self respect, how the two connect and intertwine.

BUT is she doing it because it's expected of her or is she doing it only for her self respect?

Jamie said...

VB, I love it when you stop by. You are so perceptive. That question is exactly why I picked the two quotes. Did she take on the burden willingly because she felt it was her duty, possibly because there was no one else to assume the responsibility or did someone force her under the overwhelming load demanding that she perform what they expected of her.

It is so important to be inner directed, to uphold ones beliefs according to your own sense of right and wrong, but how often do we confuse what we have been told to feel with the ethics that have grown out of our own experience and commitment to others we love and respect. What do we do for the community as a whole and does this violate what we require of ourselves. Good balancing act on the tightwire we all walk.

AlanBoss said...

Jamie, You have enticed me to go revisit Heinlein!I was quite young when I last read him and probably missed much.

I admit that you are the second catalyst for that endeavor. The first... I recently read Spider Robinson’s brilliant collection of op-ed pieces, “The Crazy Years.” If you only know Spider via Callahans’s (and to your commenters that don’t know him at all) I highly recommend picking it up! He covers the gamut from thoughts on Heinlein to the internet and 9/11.

enigma4ever said...

Beautiful statue...really and great post..

Jamie said...

Alan,

Spider is one of my favorite SF writers. I do love the Callahan series, but his other works are fascinating, particularly the ones written with his wife. His web pages are a hoot. Spider Robinson

If you go back to Heinlein, pick up "The Path Through the Future". It is a collection of his short stories laid out on a time line. It contains "Methuselahs Children" which was the precursor to "Time Enough for Love" and "Coventry" among others that were about a religious dictatorship taking over the United States and leading to "Stranger In A Strange Land".

Hidden within all that froth is some of the most perceptive political writing ever done.

AlanBoss said...

Jamie, Thanks for the recomendations.