Where does humanity’s honour lie…? And where does friendship end and obligation and duty begin? Sometimes it’s a fine line and we can’t be sure which choice is the most correct. Sometimes, the subject of our friendship doesn’t leave us with much choice…
In 1990, Robert Jordan wrote “Death is lighter than a feather, but duty is heavier than a mountain.” The quote always stuck with me, as I’ve read the Eye of the World a number of times. It’s Book One out of Fourteen of the Wheel of Time series. Fantastic read. I highly recommend it, if you have a few years to contribute to such a long series. But absolutely fantastic.
It wouldn’t be until years later, during my studies of the Japanese culture through the martial arts, that I would come to realize that the quote was actually part of a document issued by the Imperial Japanese Army in the early 1880’s.
But what does it mean? I always took it to mean that the duties and obligations of life provided a burden to one’s shoulders akin to Atlas holding up the world; I’ve never contemplated the second part of the quote… Certainly, death comes to us all, but not until we’ve accomplished what we’re here for. But enough of the philosophical…
When a person swears an oath, it has to mean something. One can’t simply swear an oath for the sake of getting what one wants. An oath carries an obligation along with it. In its very definition, an oath states that you are making a solemn promise regarding your future behaviour or actions.
What happens when you’ve sworn oaths that are being violated by a friend? Do you side with the friend? Cast aside your oath in exchange of a moment’s favour? Does it make it easier when you know that the friend was aware of the oath and its violation and chose to proceed anyway?
We live in a society of self service. It has become much easier to do what feels right instead of what IS right. And that sometimes puts those who are your friend in an awkward position. We don’t always get to chose how we deal with these situations. Always remember that you should respect your oaths and do what’s right.
Years ago, I was working in a small rural Saskatchewan town that had a quote by Suzy Kassem painted onto a mural in the local school. It read: Stand up for what’s right, even if you stand alone. Yet another quote that has always stuck with me. Sometimes, it’s hard for us to recognize what’s right. It becomes even harder for us to DO what’s right even when we do. But ultimately, what’s right exists despite our associations. And one should always do what’s right.