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October 22, 2015 / Congau

On Duty

Where do they come from all these duties that are weighing so heavily on feeble human beings? We were all born free, were we not, but still we are perpetually loaded by obligations that we have to perform. They force us and prevent us from doing what we want. Duty is the opposite of freedom.

Were we not born free after all? Did we come into this world already encumbered with demands about what we had to do? Were we born with chains? No, freedom was our first birthday present and it was a real freedom excluding all obligations. If we are no longer perfectly free, it is because we have lost this freedom, and if we now have duties, it is because they have later caught us. We were born without duties.

Nobody can demand anything of an infant who without guilt has come into this world. It did not cause its own existence, it never asked to be born, and therefore nobody can rightfully require it to do anything.

It is as if someone had kidnapped you and carried you away to a foreign land. There you were to live. Perhaps you were forced to work. Maybe guardians were pointing guns at you to make you obey. You had to work, but of course it was not your duty. (A duty is whatever one has to do even though one is not physically forced to do so.)

This is the situation for the little child who has just arrived in our foreign world. Because it has never consented to its own birth, nobody can make demands on it. The infant is perfectly free.

Thus we have all come here; free and without duties. But now most of us do have duties indeed. What has happened? We have acquired these obligations by ourselves. We have deliberately exchanged our precious innate liberty against something that is even more valuable; human contact.

The newborn cannot remain in life for long without care. Someone nurses it, gives it food and warmth, and soon the little one is getting actively involved in its own presence. It contributes to its own life when interacting with others and then, slowly, duties will arise. We were all taken care of when we were small and defenseless, and we are still dependent on our fellow human beings. That obliges us.

One Comment

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  1. Siim Land / Oct 22 2015 12:02 pm

    Moreoften than not duties are something we put on ourselves. It is like we feel responsible to giving back.

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