I first heard the quote in today’s title all the way back in the early 1990’s when I started reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series for the first time. At the time, I thought it was just a cool quote, “Duty is heavier than a mountain, death is light as a feather.” It’s a quote that the main protagonist ends up carrying with him throughout the entire series. Since the release of the books, many people have been quick to point out that the quote actually comes from an old Japanese military text (myself included, since I wrote about it last year).
But by the time I had reached the end of the series, the expression had come to mean a great deal more to me than simply a line in a book. And in truth, there are a lot of values that are important to me; loyalty, honor, duty and obligation. These are things that are surprisingly not thought about in any great depth by most people. But the martial arts (at least traditional schools) are steeped in these values. And I’ve grown with these values ingrained as part of who I am.
“Loyalty Above All Else, Except Honor…”– Lt. Vincent Hardy, Striking Distance
Doing the right thing should be easy. People think it’s hard to do the right thing, but it really isn’t. Unless you’re values are a bit shady, doing the right thing should come smoothly and easily and should be done without thinking. It shouldn’t be a chore, it should feel like what you’re SUPPOSED to do; because it is. It should be. Key word: should. Sometimes, it can be harmful to yourself to do the right thing because it can cost you.
Doing the right thing can sometimes take something from you that you endeavoured to obtain for yourself. So the important question becomes, if you know that being loyal and doing the right thing will take something important away from you, do you still do it? Yes. The answer you’re looking for is yes…
Duty is ever-present. There will always be things in your life that you have a bound duty to, so you should roll with that. Honor is always important. It helps you to do what’s right, even when it seems hard. Loyalty should be earned. But if someone in your life has become important enough to earn that loyalty, then you should be true to that loyalty to the best of your ability. ☯