C.S. Lewis gave an address entitled, “Learning During Wartime” in which he defended the idea that the war need not prevent humans from doing other kinds of work. If you’re not a soldier, but a scholar–if you’re not a tank mechanic, but a musician–the right thing to do is to keep doing your work–with diligence.
How? He offers the listener (now reader) “three mental exercises which may serve as defences against the three enemies which war raises up against the scholar.”
Here’s the first:
“The first enemy is excitement–the tendency to think and feel about the war when we had intended to think about our work. The best defence is a a recognition that in this, as in anything else, the war has not really raised up a new enemy but only aggravated an old one. There are always plenty of rivals to our work. We are always falling in love or quarrelling, looking for jobs or fearing to lose them, getting ill and recovering, following public affairs. If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come. There are moments of course, moments when the pressure of the excitement is so great that only superhuman self-control could resist it. They come both in war and peace. We must do the best we can.”C.S. Lewis, “Learning in war time,” in The Weight of Glory, 59-60.