The French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy was recently interviewed by the New York Times about his grueling travel schedule, which will include 22 cities this year.
This passage of the interview is worth highlighting:
Q: When you travel, do you read, write, sleep, or watch movies?
A: I do not live very differently when I travel and when I don’t, which means I do my duty. My duty is to read, to write, and to fight. These are the three things that are my duty. Traveling and not traveling, this is what I do.”
Although Lévy’s brand of philosophy is distinctly not Stoic—he’s the founder of the New Philosophers school—his answer does sound eerily similar to something Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations 2,000 years ago:
“No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be good. Like gold or emerald or purple repeating to itself, ‘No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be emerald, my color undiminished.’”
This is all worth pointing out because of the disturbing habit we humans have of making excuses for not doing our duty or not being good. “It’s not cheating if it’s on vacation.” “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” “They hit me first.” “I’m on the road, who cares about my diet (or my sobriety)?” “I was tired. I couldn’t take it anymore.”
No. Duty is duty. Good is good. We must do it every day, everywhere.