The courage to step forward in a time of crisis often means responding to pain and frustration as a positive personal act. This can be especially challenging if it feels like the world around us is unraveling.
To persevere in the present turmoil, we are in need of a vision of the future that embodies our hopes and a purpose we believe in. Our values and sense of personal integrity are vitally important. But, ideas are useless without action.
What is to be done?
Our responses to a crisis will be guided by our values and sense of belonging. We must never forget that there can be no freedom without personal responsibility. This is the backbone of a free society.
This is our country and our world, and the problems we face belong to us as well. In my view, a commitment to the integrity of civil order is a commitment to ones’ own personal integrity.
We would do well to think about who we are and what integrity means to us. This will lead to greater self-sufficiency and a stronger sense of purpose and belonging.
Self-sufficiency and purpose give us self-confidence; both are important. Self-sufficiency concerns practical matters and will-power. But purpose has to do with ideas, and ideas can be problematic.
So, let’s think about this.
Sense of purpose is a personal matter, yet it would be useless in a vacuum. It builds on creative thinking and adapts to change. If we are not engaged, thinking and responding, we are not paying attention.
However, purpose also implies a future. How can we think about the future when all we know is the past?
It would be easy to attach ourselves unwittingly to ideas or expectations that are based solely on past circumstances. There is both strength and danger here.
Most of us develop a firm commitment to certain ideas. This has value, so long as we keep our minds open. We need the capacity to stick to our beliefs and to follow through with plans. Otherwise nothing would get done.
But, at a time of extraordinary disruption and change, when the future is hard to imagine, purpose and expectations can sometimes take unexpected turns – or disappear into a fog.
We know what kind of world we wish to live in, at least in general terms, but the details of the future will be veiled from view.
Why? Because the emerging reality of the future will remain in constant motion during a long crisis. And, in the coming years we can expect to be bombarded by sequential crises
This is why shared moral values and agreement on basic principles are important in genuine community. A vision for the future needs to be built upon mutual respect and understanding, rather than on the assumptions of a crumbling past.
Even in the midst of chaos, “constructive action” can be understood as the means by which we unite and progress toward intended goals, not away from them.
So, let’s keep two priorities in mind: First, to hold firmly to values capable of guiding us through turmoil. Second, to stay alert, allowing flexibility of judgment and adjusting our thinking as conditions change.
If we believe in freedom we cannot allow presuppositions to set the future in concrete. That is not what freedom is about.
Let’s be clear. Assumptions that we carry with us from the past are dinosaurs that threaten our ability to create the future. Our values and principles must be permitted to guide our way, based on the realities at hand.
We may dislike the conditions in which we find ourselves at any particular moment. We may determine to alter them. But, to be rigid and inflexible would court disaster. Our independence as free people depends on our capacity to engage effectively with ever-changing circumstances.
We are challenged to keep our balance at the vortex of historic change, resisting absolutism and bigotry in the spirit of liberty. Our values will support personal integrity and trustworthiness; our vision will help us keep our bearings as we traverse a stormy sea.
To survive and serve we must summon the courage to spread our wings and soar on the wind.
Please look for the next blog post on or about February 23.
A note to new readers: Blog entries are posted on alternating Fridays on both this and a Facebook page. A project description, an introduction to the forthcoming book, and several chapter drafts are posted on this page.