And I thought: what does the word "duty" imply?
It implies that our relationships matter, and that we have the most meaning not as isolated individuals, but in the context of relationships to our fellow human beings and to God. It implies that we are accountable for our actions--and by extension, that our actions matter. It implies a mission in life which can, in at least some measure, be fulfilled.
Pres. Monson went on to quote, for at least his third time in a General Conference, a short thought by Rabindranath Tagore:
I slept and dreamt that life was Joy.
I awoke and saw that life was Duty.
I acted, and behold, Duty was Joy.
I usually notice when an Indian is quoted in Conference, and will admit to feeling some ethnic pride at hearing Tagore's wisdom over the pulpit. I decided to look up the quote and see if it was part of a larger poet--but I haven't been able to find the source.
I did find an interesting meditation of Tagore's on the subject of everyday duty in a collection of letter-excerpts called Glimpses of Bengal which sort of reminds me of Hel 12: 6-8. Here's the Tagore passage:
SHELIDAH,Whichever quote you use, I'm thankful for people who have found meaning in our routine burdens of simple duties, and for a restored gospel that exalts the everyday.
16th June 1892.
The more one lives alone on the river or in the open country, the clearer it becomes that nothing is more beautiful or great than to perform the ordinary duties of one's daily life simply and naturally. From the grasses in the field to the stars in the sky, each one is doing just that; and there is such profound peace and surpassing beauty in nature because none of these tries forcibly to transgress its limitations.
Yet what each one does is by no means of little moment. The grass has to put forth all its energy to draw sustenance from the uttermost tips of its rootlets simply to grow where it is as grass; it does not vainly strive to become a banyan tree; and so the earth gains a lovely carpet of green. And, indeed, what little of beauty and peace is to be found in the societies of men is owing to the daily performance of small duties, not to big doings and fine talk.
Perhaps because the whole of our life is not vividly present at each moment, some imaginary hope may lure, some glowing picture of a future, untrammelled with everyday burdens, may tempt us; but these are illusory.
And I'm grateful to have both Rabindranath Tagore, the poet, and Thomas S. Monson, the prophet, present in my life.