“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — Think of it, ALWAYS.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Today is — or promises to be — a global “get-back-to-work” day.
Americans, our allies and even (I imagine) our enemies have been in a state of shock and bewilderment, anger and anticipation. Some of us have stopped working. Others have worked distractedly. Very few — I’d like to think — have been able to ignore what is happening and work with any kind of focus and care.
Yet, for most of us, our work requires focus and care. And today, with schools reopening, the bond markets working, and the New York Stock Exchange due to resume trading, it feels like it’s time to “get back to normal.”
Of course, that will be impossible. We are on the verge of a major war — perhaps a world war. More importantly, the entire world has suddenly become vulnerable and dangerous. Only the most naïve person could convince himself that terrorism will subside or that any action less than a third world war would get rid of its threat.
On the one hand, we are facing a world where bombings, biochemical warfare, and portable nuclear bombs will threaten the lives of large populations. On the other hand, we are looking at the horror of a real war — where everything that an evil mind can imagine happens, where tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of American men and women — and countless others from other nations — will die in terror and hate.
There will be a normal — but it will be significantly different from the normal we have known. And it will feel especially abnormal to anyone young enough not have lived through Vietnam.
How things will change depends on what Bush decides to do. There’s almost no point in speculating. We’ll know soon enough.
What we can do today — what I recommend you do — is to take this terrible opportunity to make yourself a stronger, wiser, more directed person.
We are going back to work today because we must. We have jobs to do, bills to pay, family members to care for. Yet if we allow the terrible events of this time to derail our productivity any longer, our country is going to become weaker — one day and one person at a time.
Don’t believe that oft-heard myth about war being good for the economy. It is not. When something of value is destroyed — and this includes everything from material objects to human life — the world is less for it.
What we lost last Tuesday will never be recovered. Those buildings — those computers, those desks, those chairs — the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of things that disappeared that day — will never be recovered. Those individual people — those brokers and secretaries and firemen and policemen — will never be recovered.
Like terrorism, war is destructive. It is evil and destructive. Yet at times like these, it seems necessary. And perhaps it is.
Tuesday’s destruction and all we do in response to it will be horrendously costly.
You can’t make that cost go away. But you can do something about it.
You can become better, stronger, and wiser. You can provide more value. By working smarter and harder and thus producing more value, you play a vital role in replacing what is lost and what will be lost in the future.
By making yourself stronger and smarter and wiser, you can influence those around you to be — and this will have untold beneficial effect on the rest of the world. Like a pebble dropped in a still pond, the energy and compassion and thoughtfulness you bring to your work (all your work — personal and business) will ripple out toward the people who know you.
In times of crisis — just before hell breaks loose — there is a void. It is the moment at which time seems to stand still. Everyone stands silently, stupefied, waiting for something to happen, someone to say something.
There will be some of that void still present today. It’s time for you to fill it up — just a little, perhaps — with the best that is you.[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.]