Before I get started, I wanted to say that this post is largely inspired by the last few Daily Stoic emails that focus directly on trying to put our election anxiety in the context of history. I can't recommend Ryan Holiday enough in all his content. I've been closely following his work for about a year now from his books on Stoicism, to his podcast, and most recently his email newsletter. Like the rest of the US, I've been stressed these last few days. Its hard to peel myself away from the vote tallying even when I know that there will be hours between significant shifts in the count. We're all living through history, knowing that makes it hard to look away even for a moment. But what I've realized is that continuing to watch the moment to moment as it unfolds is vanity.
It's egoistic to assume that my observation will somehow change the outcome, and illogical fear to think that I won't survive if I miss a major announcement by a few hours. The Daily Stoic emails have definitely helped abate some of my anxiety over the last few days, and I'm willing to bet it can do the same for you. In Ryan's own words:
"When you look at a map of the world from a distance, everything seems smooth. The more you zoom in, the bumpier it gets. Suddenly, mountain ranges leap up at you. Enormous lakes emerge. Vast distances become apparent.
In a sense, history is a lot like this, too."
Historical events loom large when we're living through them, and this election in particular has been almost impossible to look away from. But if you're able to take the long view, you can realize that the events of the day are only a blip. America has been around for nearly 250 years, and there have been far more polarized, dangerous times to be alive than 2020. Despite all the issues we face, there's plenty of reasons to have hope. MLK said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Things are improving and getting fairer each generation, no matter how it feels moment to moment.
And if hope isn't good enough for you, there's plenty more work to be done, and you're of far more use when you're focused on what matters. This election is hardly a finish line; regardless of who wins we'll still be just as divided as we were last week, with a pandemic raging, inequality that's only continuing to widen, and countless other problems. The homeless guy that lives down the street from you will still be homeless.
The only way to make this election feel small is to make your efforts feel larger. Don't let an election, no matter how contentious, throw you off for even a day from continuing to make the world a better place through your work, or even just with your positive attitude. Be the person others can lean on in the days to come rather than just another voice adding to the inevitable fear and anger that we're all bound to be surrounded by during this period of great transition.
Don't get me wrong, I'm struggling through this time the same as everyone else, but with a little historical perspective and wisdom from the ancients, I realize the only thing to do is to keep on, keeping on.