So much is happening.
At home. Abroad. On the news. At work.
You have the things you need to do. And the emails that keep pouring in. You have the distractions that your own head creates. You have the criticisms and actions of the mob outside. There are a million different options, different opinions, different orders that things can be done.
As the voices grouse and the noise mounts, it is in moments like these that we must slam our open hand down on the table as Daniel Day-Lewis does in Lincoln. It buys a second of silence. “Now, now, now,” he says to his squabbling cabinet members. “We are stepped out on the world’s stage, the fate of human dignity is in our hands… See what is before you. See the here and now, that’s the hardest thing, the only thing that accounts.”
In his case, he’s talking about procuring just the few critical votes to pass the amendment to abolish slavery. Everything else—peace overtures, political ramifications, complaints—it’s all irrelevant in light of that here and now, that world-changing opportunity. He’s talking to himself and everyone as Marcus Aurelius did, he’s demanding that we concentrate like a Roman. He’s saying, as Marcus did, that there is what is essential and there is everything else.
These are times where it seems all but impossible for people to grasp this. We ping and zoom from issue to issue, scandal to scandal, tweet to tweet. Meanwhile, the world needs masks, they need clear messaging on safety and best practices, a vaccine must be developed. There are people who need saving, reforms that must be passed. You have to get your stuff in order. You have to make hard decisions about your family, about your lifestyle, about what role you’re going to play in the solution. You have to do this now. You, we, have to see what is before us. We have to concentrate like Romans.
It’s the hardest thing, but it’s the only thing that accounts. Everything else is noise.