“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
One cannot but notice a growing sense of concern and even anxiety about the future. Are we in for serious disruptions of the social order, and should we be doing something to prepare? The fact is that the last several months have taught a lesson: things we thought could not happen can happen—surprisingly quickly.
This lesson should not be without fruit in our lives.
But what is the appropriate response? This is one of those things we have to try our best to get right, knowing that it is akin to walking a tightrope—from which you can fall off either way. Allow me to try to sketch out how one might think about this.
Let us call our goal here ‘proper preparedness,’ meaning by this both the right interior disposition toward the future and taking fitting steps to be ‘ready’ for it. There are two obvious pitfalls here. A person could be over-concerned and fearful or under-concerned and nonchalant, and correspondingly one could over-prepare or under-prepare. Part of the challenge here is that to a person at either extreme the person at the mean—i.e., who has the best approach—will usually himself appear to be at an extreme, namely the one opposite the person in question.
So we have the overly fearful convinced that the properly prepared are still too nonchalant; and the over-confident and under prepared are convinced the properly prepared are alarmist and even a menace.
To characterize concretely the properly prepared person is a difficult task. He will have an understanding of root principles of human life and vocation on the one hand, along with an alert attention to the concrete conditions and signs of the times on the other. Correspondingly, he will have a sober and prudent response, one rooted in hope for the future along with realistic foresight and planning.
It is easier to sketch this approach in the abstract than to determine just how to do it. But it is incumbent on all of us—the more so to the extent that we have responsibility for others, such as particularly the parents in a household—to make every effort to find that golden mean of ‘proper preparedness.’
It will not be easy to avoid the fear and fretting that undermine the peace and joy of daily life, while also not just moving forward, unwilling to read and respond to the times with vigilance and planning.
It seems to me that sober conversations between husband and wife are in order. To examine certain rather bracing ‘what ifs’ at this point is not to indulge in fear mongering. Rather it should be the obvious fruit of seeing what is right before our eyes.
Our children are hearing some alarming things, and they feel the concern in us and other adults. Open and age-appropriate discussions are fitting, giving actual words to the attitude and approach that Mama and Daddy have. Yes, certain things will always be beyond our control and so will especially call upon our faith. This itself is a gift, that we have occasion to remind ourselves and our loved ones of ultimate things.
Yet such faith can and should go hand in hand with astute foresight and concrete action steps, for instance right down to making lists and obtaining an appropriate store of goods and tools.
Our understanding of ‘proper preparedness’ and of ‘success’ and ‘failure’ in challenging times should be rich and complex. Just as human nature itself, these are matters of soul and body, and matters to be pursued as a community, with faith and courage and open eyes.
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Image: Albert Anker (1831-1910), Switzerland.
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Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.