What Matters Most
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.—WB Yeats
I began writing this, while stuck in the San Antonio airport. My original flight was canceled by severe weather and my next available option left six and a half hours after my first flight was scheduled. I travel enough that I have learned not become overly vexed by such things. Delays happen. Weather happens. You can’t control it so you might as well use your time for something constructive and meaningful.
For me that means reading. I purchased some mindless brain candy at the airport bookstore and settled in for a few hours of twists, turns and explanations of “who killed who” and “who rescued humanity from certain annihilation.”
But prior to pointless, mindless adventure and suspense, I perused the Financial Times and happened across a story about French President, Nicholas Sarkosy threatening to withdrawal his country from the Euro.
The common European currency is being weighed down by the sovereign debt crisis and individual countries are threatening to take their identity—in the form of their national currency—back from the quasi continental government. Events half a world away are battering our markets here at home.
For the first time in a long time, some of the European public is beginning to question what piece of themselves they gave up to become a part of the larger whole. There is an undercurrent of talk that individual countries should revert to using their own currencies.
In the United States arguments over healthcare and immigration have once again brought State’s Rights and State sovereignty back into every day discussion. As a nation we find ourselves engaged in a vigorous debate over how much government control is necessary in society and from what level that control ought to be exerted.
Put another way, what does sovereignty look like and who has it?
As a consultant who deals primarily with economic development issues for municipalities, Indian tribes and businesses with significant governmental footprints, I am sometimes asked for my take on what’s going on with our economy and our politics.
What do we do to survive and even thrive in what many pundits have called the “new normal?”
These are important questions and there are some practical answers for families and businesses. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. If you do, learn to eat something besides eggs. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. If you do, hope that someone like GM or AIG also owes Peter money and can use TARP funds to get you off the hook.
Everywhere you look, you can find articles that list “seven things to do”or “10 things not to do”to survive and thrive in the worst recession since the word recession was invented. Now that the recession has moved into a largely jobless recovery, you can find tips on resume writing and interview skills. Still, most people—whose permanent place of residence isn’t in our nation’s capital—are far from breaking open the champagne and declaring that happy days are here again.
In all seriousness, it’s important that our families do things like get out of debt and save money. In business, it’s important to be a recognized expert. If you aren’t, become one. Stay current. Stay relevant. Stay connected. Communicate early and often with your customers and potential customers. Finally, make the most of the moments that matter and realize that every moment matters.
The famous Irish poet William Butler Yeats, whose work “The Second Coming”was quoted in part to begin this column was right. Things fall apart when “the centre cannot hold;” when we forget what’s important or replace what’s important with seven steps or ten tricks to accomplish this or that ultimately meaningless thing.
It’s hard to argue with the notion that we do, in fact, live in a time when “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” In such circumstances, it is easy to become disheartened, discouraged or distracted. But, in our families, our businesses, and our communities each of us still has work to do.
I don’t have answers to all of the questions about the state of our economy or our politics. Truthfully, this isn’t just about taxes and spending, debts or deficits, stimulus plans or bailouts. The troubles of this present age won’t be fixed by a political sea change at home or the reinstitution of sovereign currencies in Europe, as needed and necessary as those things may be.
We will only survive and thrive when we decide to focus on the things that matter most.
What then are the things that matter most? There are many. Perhaps a good place to start is by reminding ourselves that the question of sovereignty isn’t settled by borders or currencies. It is settled simply by faith.
Usually called the Mystery of the Faith, this famous acclamation is sometimes called the “Blessing of the Second Coming” and shares its name with the title of Yeats’ poem: “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”
In the middle of all that is going on around us, nothing matters more than that.