How to Live and Work During a Time of Crisis

Yesterday, SH sent me the following note through the ETR Speak Out message board: “No offense, but I would prefer that you continue to give us your daily message rather than just a quote. “Your statement about gathering thoughts and spending time with family and friends sounds nice but the reality of the situation is that most of us are not taking time off from work or other activities to spend additional time with family and friends.”

Although our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of the terrorist attacks, we would still like to be able to get your daily message — not just a quote.” SH is right. I had come to the same conclusion myself. My mistake was in thinking that anything I could say about the subjects we’ve been talking about would be disrespectful. But that was wrong. So beginning today and continuing indefinitely, I will say what I can about living and working during a time of crisis.

When the twin towers imploded and those great symbols of human achievement collapsed into dust and debris, my spirit collapsed too. I was stunned, almost defeated. But almost as soon as that feeling of paralysis took over, a little fire of anger and resolve started burning. It grew, almost imperceptibly, as I watched the television coverage. It was inflamed as I recognized the extent of the damage, the number of people who had been murdered, the horror they must have experienced in their last conscious moments. We — many of the people in my offices — were seated together watching the reporting.

Occasionally, a comment would be made, sometimes to silence, sometimes to an irritated answer. We each had different ideas about the causes and solutions, but there was a gradual consensus that grew out of it. We were, despite our many differences, going to be united — for we had a common enemy. Americans, and our friends, want to respond to this. We refuse to see this as just another crime — like drugs or poverty — that needs symbolic attention.

We recognize now, and in the deepest way possible, that there is evil in the world, and that evil must be defeated. These feelings and thoughts are developing inside us, fueled by a growing anger and a hardening resolve. But where do we put them? What do we do? How do we move forward — this day, this hour, this minute? That’s what we’ll talk about in the coming days. What we can do. As SH points out, most of us are back to work.

We are already pushing on with our normal lives, but the thoughts and feelings we have about them have changed. It is possible that they have changed forever. We don’t know how that change will affect us. I believe it will make us stronger and smarter. But what do we do now? How do we best use the hours that are here for us? First, limit the amount of time you spend watching television and listening to the radio. You don’t need to get a minute-by-minute update to stay abreast of the important things.

Watching the World Trade Center collapse two dozen times a day is not going to boost your spirits. Make an appointment with yourself to get your news twice or three times a day and keep the news out of your office for the remainder of the time. Second, do something helpful. Make a financial contribution. Write a letter. Volunteer. Do one useful and specific thing to help out in a way that corresponds to your personal idea of what is right and proper. Third, keep working. As I said two days ago, you may not have the mental clarity to do the most challenging work, but you can move your work forward nonetheless.

In the past two days, I have completely cleaned out all my inboxes, including my ever-full e-mail inbox. My office is immaculate. I have no appointments, no chores, not a single unimportant task on my to-do list. So I’m ready for the harder work. And as my mind clears and the spirit that was always so important to me comes back, I am able to move forward without any distractions. Writing this ETR message is one of those important things. And it’s making me feel a little better already. If you are still feeling shattered, confused, listless, etc. follow the three recommendations above. Other ideas and suggestions are welcome. Until Monday … MMF

[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]