Given the election, the rash of racist incidents that followed, and the legitimate fears that things are going to get even worse, why do we keep going to work (or writing, or playing, or anything)?
My wife and I — like many others — have started a program of regular giving to important organizations, joining in protests, intercession with our governmental representatives, and volunteering. It’s in its first phases; but how can we do anything else other than the activities in “the program”?
This is essentially the same question C. S. Lewis asked in his essay, “Learning in War-Time.” What is the point of working on your university studies in the middle of a world war, he asked? Part of his answer was this: if humans had waited till the world was good and safe before doing research or being creative, they’d still be waiting, having never discovered or created anything.
But it is also essentially the same question Robert Wilson was asked when advocating for government funding of Fermilab. Why fund science when national security is so much more central to the concerns of government? He answered that science is one of the things that makes security worth ensuring.
We want a country in which people are treated with kindness and justice. So, we are going to be working on that. But if there were nothing for us all to be doing here in America there would be no opportunities for kindness or justice. Kindness and justice are ways of performing activities, more than they are activities themselves. They are how we ought to get done the things we are doing.
Life here in the US (as elsewhere) has both a form and a content, both a structure and a stuff, both a shape and a material. While we are working to ensure that the form, structure, and shape of life is one of kindness and justice, we must also continue giving kindness and justice something to form, structure, and shape. If we’re going to organize our lives in a particular way, that means we all need to have lives to organize.
So, as we each follow the programs we have chosen for encouraging kindness and justice, we need to make sure we keep doing the living that makes “living well” worth it. And that means we need to keep working, playing, and creating even while we donate, intercede, and volunteer.