We have such a short time to do this good work,
to forgive each other’s small mistakes,
to pay attention to positive points.
We must practice being good people, and
destroy the lens of pessimism in our eyes,
and see the facts of life.
Why are we born to this world,
and what are our plans for this life?
Are they the destruction or betterment of our world?
I try to smile. I don’t have money, power
or authority, but I have God who gave me
a mouth with lips for smiling, I have language for speaking,
I can use them for good,
to carry messages of peace and love and forgiveness.
I can smile to grow the root of the friendship tree.
We have such short time to do good work.
Let’s hurry.—Nasima (A poem from the Afghan Women’s Writing Project)
Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on.—Johanna Kajsa Soederberg, Klara Maria Soederberg, Silver Lining
Armageddon hovered over us, darkly. Missiles, bunched together like wildflowers, following the sun. Too many people with too little food. Peak oil. Economic collapse. Kennedy. King. Kennedy again. Viet Nam. Cambodia. Iran. Iraq. Afghanistan. Rwanda. The Balkans. 9-11. The Congo. Afghanistan again. Iraq again. Syria.
The world was a pinball machine, but there was no blind kid to play it for us. We kept tilting. We walked away. We stopped believing, the jukebox stopped playing. Armageddon turned out to be the end of the world as we knew it, and we did not feel fine.
We’ve been living so long with the feeling that, no matter how good things get, they are just about to get really horrible. But what if they aren’t? What if we have been fooled into pessimism?
According to Johan Norber, a Swedish economic historian, in 1820, 94% of humanity subsisted on less than $2 a day in 2017 dollars. By 1990 it was under 37% and less than 10% in 2015. A recent study by the University of Washington showed that life expectancy increased by 5.8 years for men and 6.6 years for women between 1990 and 2013.
In spite of the horrors of modern warfare and terrorist attacks, the world is actually safer than it has ever been. Violent crime rates are near historic lows, and deaths due to terrorism have plunged in the past 50 years.
Things are not getting worse, Armageddon is not just around the corner and the world is not about to get really, really, horrible. We need new lenses to see the facts of life: things are not perfect, not by a long shot, but they are better than they have ever been. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Tell them to get new lenses.
The Afghan Women’s Writing project, an organization whose mission is to support the voices of women with the belief that to tell one’s story is a human right and especially so in a land where women are traditionally voiceless. The poem Hurry, by a woman named Nasima, was written in a workshop on “Love and Forgiveness.” You can find out more about the AWWP at http://awwproject.org/.