If you were a young man or woman in Europe in the late 1930s, your times were asking something of you. Idling wasn’t a choice for these people; they had to choose — and act.

What they chose, and how they acted, depended on their mental models of reality; models informed by their experiences within their societies and the information they could access. (It’s easy for us to judge in retrospect. In the midst of turmoil — with an ​imperfect understanding of what’s going on — the right course of action is often unclear.)

These men and women had skills and talents. Their careers — their lives — got derailed as their contexts collapsed. Suddenly their skills were more urgently needed elsewhere. These people also had dreams and ambitions. They had to put their personal goals on hold — indefinitely, in many cases — to answer the call of their times.

Today, many of us live relatively quiet lives. (Certainly compared to what people endured during World War II.) Still, our times call to us in various ways. For example, today it’s obvious some of the core systems that support our way of life are unsustainable in the long term. To mention one: even if you don’t believe carbon-based fuels damage the environment (again, mental models), you must still acknowledge these energy sources will run out at some point. What then?

Perhaps you don’t see this call as urgent as the one asked of people in the late 1930s. Maybe there’s something else calling to you. Much depends on your worldview, your perspectives on time and responsibility, and your understanding of systemic effects. Whatever the case, you’re not a spectator in this game. You’re in it.

What are our times asking of you? How do you know? What skills and talents can you contribute? What are you willing to sacrifice to answer the call?