The useful crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis was an actual crisis. The world was hours away from being annihilated–gone forever, all of us.

Since then, the media has exploited (and invented) crises on a regular basis, now more than ever, often at the expense of focusing our attention on chronic conditions, which are the real challenges.

Today’s election day in the US, and the whole world is watching. Even with mail-in voting, it’s mostly a one-day thing. A useful crisis, a chance to encourage millions of people to get involved, at least a little. The last time around, only 80,000 votes separated the outcome, a truly tiny fraction of the population who didn’t show up and vote but could have.

While the Tonkin crisis accelerated the US’s involvement in Vietnam, it was the chronic and persistent war that truly took a toll. We notice the amplified moments but the long haul is often invisible. And media like Twitter make it 140 times worse.

A crisis doesn’t have to be a negative event. A wedding is a crisis–one ceremony, one day, over and done. All eyes, all attention, all on this moment. That’s why we do it–even though the chronic condition of the marriage itself is always more important. And we do the same thing for job interviews and product launches as well.

Today’s the launch day for my new book, The Practice. People asked me why I would waste the focus and crisis of a launch on a day when everyone is going to be talking about something else. I did it partly because I know you can handle two things at once, and would probably want to find something to fill your time while you were waiting for the results. And mostly because The Practice is about the long haul, the persistent posture of creation and possibility. I’d love to have an exciting launch day (I’ll be posting some hoopla details later today) but I’m far more interested in what the people who go first do with the book after they read it. Tomorrow, next month and next year.

It doesn’t make sense to waste a good crisis, but it also hurts us when we are only concerned with them.

Please vote today if you can, and then let’s all try to find a way to work together to figure out how to focus on the persistent, chronic conditions that we can each do something about.

[Video by Fernando Lazzari]