She reminds me of the Bhagavad Gita, which is about the question of duty, or correct action. When caught in a civil war of conflicting values (party or country) what do you do? What is your duty?
This was the question Arjuna brought to Krishna, his wisdom mind) and the teaching of the Gita unfolded. The final teaching was: do your duty but without regard to the fruits of your action. That means fearless action. If your action is without fear, you will do the right thing.
In the talk, I pulled apart the two paths of Duty that Dr. Hill described in her excellent analysis from the hill overlooking the battlefield of Ukraine. One path of duty was the path of National security which was the path of the foreign service, and the other path, she discovered, was the path of Trump. But both paths are the Will of America. Duty to the nation and duty to the President is supposed to be the same duty, the same Will. Thy Will be done as the President and the Nation. There cannot be two opposite wills both of which you must obey. What do you do?
This was the question and dilemma of Arjuna in the Gita. Confronted with a civil war he was caught in the same double-bind of two valid values that are opposite but must be One and cannot be divided. There is only One America and One duty to America.
So Dr. Hill, from her hilltop was Arjuna in that she saw the dilemma while still being engaged. She didn’t quit. She didn’t throw down her bow, her duty and get another job. She acted without concern for the fruits of her action, her personal gain. She did her duty, but she saw the higher duty which was her action itself.
By acting, by being a witness before the President, she did not condemn the president or judge the president, she just stayed with the facts, which is our duty. It’s all Dragnet.
I’ve been pulling apart this cotton ball of duty all morning, getting my insights from the Gita which I’m evoking. What is my duty? What is my service in life? Why at 83 am I asking?
We all ask that question from God or the cosmos? What am I supposed to do with this life? But we are always confronted with the double-bind of the two duties, both of which are valid but opposite, so we cannot do both at the same time. We choose one or the other, but we Must obey both because there can be only One Will…Thy Will be done. If there are two wills, to duties, we are conflicted, neurotic and in danger of psychosis. Anxiety is always the clue we are conflicted by two duties that are both valid but opposite.
One is ultimately subjective and the other is objective. The former is concerning ME from the inside, the latter concerns ME as the outside. Subjective ME is what I feel; the objective ME is what I should do. In most cases what I feel is the opposite of what I should do, so what I should do gets divided into two choices, and again we are caught in a double-bind. I like to say Catch 22.
Our nation on full view of national TV is acting out the Bhagavad Gita. What is duty and what is correct action when duty is divided? What is the right thing? This is why the Gita is eternal teaching, which is a spiritual or wisdom metaphor. A wisdom metaphor points you towards right action by making you discover right action. You cannot be told what right action is, what your duty is when caught in a dilemma, you must come upon it, be seized by it, shaken by it, and thrown into it.
But when you discover right action, your duty, you are liberated from the pain of conflicting duties and filled with joy and energy, you joyously participate in the cross of life, in the battlefield of life without fear.
So why at 83 (next month) am I asking this question? At this age, I should have done my duty and relax reflecting on what I did and didn’t do, living in the rear-view mirror.
When I gave this Zen Fits talk, I was doing my duty. And the ideas and the energy for the talk happened spontaneously, without plans or talking points or fear that I would embarrass myself, that I would stutter like a deer in the headlights, conscious of what people, you are thinking about me. I do my duty when I teach.
But when I think I’m a teacher, I am not doing my duty because then my idea of myself as a teacher has a reward: I’m special. I teach wisdom. I take credit for the action and the reference shifts from Not Knowing to ME. When I do my duty, my duty does me. Me as a person is not there thinking how great I am, or wonder how well I’m doing. “Look, Ma, no hands!” My father would be proud of me now.