Wednesday, November 18, 2015

On Dark Days, Sweep the Floor

It was then-President George W. Bush who, on an occasion of great tragedy, famously told Americans to go to the mall. It was not the best choice of words, but the essential point holds true today. On a dark day, it is a happier approach to life to do the things you know you have to do in any case, than to sit around waiting, worrying, and pondering. This is a thought that bears repeating in the current period as we face news of man-made disasters and the work of mass murderers on a daily basis. We don’t want to be paralyzed by the rush of bad news. It is better to be doing something than nothing.
   It is a time that calls for action, but also for discretion. Some actions are better than others on days when you are more affected by the weight of the world. It is not the best time for strategic initiatives or political discourse, lest one’s actions be unduly influenced by the mood of the day. Pity the men who used the recent mass murders as an occasion to tweet that it was high time to “go do something” with their right to bear arms and their assault rifles. If they are not hauled into court as suspects in a new mass murder, at the very least the sensibilities in their comments will look less forgivable with the passage of time. 
   No, for those of us who are not within earshot of the explosions and not forced to evacuate our homes and workplaces, dark times call for us to approach our work with an emphasis on humility. We can’t know what the future will hold quite so clearly as we imagine we do on a normal day, but we still know that we are better off and the world is improved if we sweep the floor, clean the refrigerator, delete the unwanted email messages, exercise, return phone calls, get flu vaccinations where medically appropriate, and a thousand other chores and obligations as tedious as they are obvious. On a dark day, the reasons for some of these actions may not be so clear and the work may be more tiring than usual, but the doubt and fatigue do not diminish the value of tasks such as these. When tomorrow comes, we are better off for having done them today.