January 9, 2021

World On Fire

Days like this remind me of Billy Joel’s 1989 hit song, “We Didn’t Start The Fire”.

In it, Joel sings through a litany of critical incidents and crisis events in recent history.

Here are a few lines:

Eisenhower, Vaccine, England’s got a new queen

Starkweather, Homicide, Children of Thalidomide

Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

Foreign debts, homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law

We didn’t start the fire

It was always burning

Since the world’s been turning…

Even back in 1989 it appeared like the world was on fire and Joel reminded us that there is always a crisis of the day, somewhere.  Just as one concludes the next one will be right around the corner.

When the world around you appears to be going crazy, and there’s little you can do to change the general state of affairs, it is a strong signal that the time for changing your point of focus has arrived.

I gravitate toward the adage that there is your business, other people’s business, and then there’s God’s business.

These three categories remind me that my “workspace” has limits and the realm of skillful action, as opposed to wasted effort, exists only in those areas that I can directly impact.

Steven Covey describes this in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as your Locus of Control.

As a martial artist in the samurai tradition there is a near obsession with projecting power from your center.  You swing the sword down your body’s center line and move your body so as to align that center on the target.

The same thing is true with pistol craft.  You align the eyes and muzzle on the target by ‘punching out’ from your center.  Having your skeleton and body mass acting as a support structure for the weapon is essential to absorbing recoil so that you are ready for the next shot.

Similarly, you do your pistol magazine changes close in to the body because it is easier to control your equipment and move fast with greater dexterity.  This too is called ‘the workspace’.

The bottom line is you can’t project power by flailing hither and yon. You have to stay in your locus of control, where you can effect change.  So when the world helps you feel powerless, overwhelmed, and despondent the way to reclaiming your power is to get back into your center.

Right now, we could all stand to orient on the basics: Health, physical fitness, emotional balance, spiritual connection, supportive relationships, personal development, and financial strength.

Only when we have our own house in order can we make positive social contributions.  (I also hope that this maxim will someday inexorably guide all political institutions but that is a distant goal. Now is the time for internal reflection)

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No matter what, I hope you take a pause and focus within.  Stay oriented on things within your locus of control and remember: whatever stressors you may have in life, this too shall pass.

We didn’t start the fire, it was always burning.