Someone I know posted some little pearls of wisdom on Facebook best summarized with two words: Lighten Up! The message was that “being serious” about things brings serious circumstances into your life, and if you just lighten up your life will become fabulous. I can imagine the person who wrote that concept down for the rest of us mere mortals, I just cannot fathom what planet they live on.
I used to buy into that line of thinking that says we create our own reality. That was before I learned about and contemplated key parts of human history like:
The Black Death across Europe, early 1330’s, with an unfathomable minimum of 75 million dead. A truly astounding number!
The Shaanxi Earthquake in China, 1556, that killed an estimated 830,000 people.
The Great Famine in Ireland, starting in 1845, that killed a million and forced another million to flee in the hope of food and a better life.
The Great Depression, which started in the U.S. in 1929 and in some cases lasted until the end of World War II, saw the Stock Market crash, heavy industry come to a grinding halt worldwide, and produce prices plummet by 60%.
The Dust Bowl Years, starting in the 1930’s throughout the prairie lands of North America, saw the loss of 100,000 acres of farmland and the displacement of hundreds of thousands.
World War II started officially in 1939, although Japan was already at war with China two years earlier. This war involved over 30 nations, and cost the lives of between 50 to 85 million people. And what strange alliances of the powerful were formed: U.S., U.K., France, Russia and China on one side; Germany, Italy and Japan on the other. The Holocaust, of course, proved to be the most diabolical plot humans have ever known; replacing traditional warfare with propaganda & fear mongering, treachery and systematic genocide. WWII is, to date, the world’s most deadly war.
The 1970 Bhola Cyclone devastated East Pakistan (before it was Bangladesh) and West Bengal, killing half a million people; the deadliest tropical cyclone in our history.
The Ethiopian Famine of 1984, caused by a combination of drought, civil war and policies based on politics rather than the lives of civilians, killed 400,000 people.
The Great Floods of 1988 & 1989 in Bangladesh, caused 30 million souls to become homeless and submerged two thirds of the country underwater.
The Rwandan Genocide lasted for 100 days following the killing of the Hutu President Habyarimana in April of 1994. It was a civil war and a power struggle that culminated in the death of over 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu sympathizers. Nobody seemed to care.
Enough. You get the picture. The world is full of suffering due to natural and man-made disasters, war, greed, poor planning, etc. To suggest that all these millions of people could have had a fabulous life if they had just “lightened up” a bit is the most ludicrous thing I’ve heard – ever.
Should Europeans have laughed that Plague away? Maybe starving Ethiopian babies could have giggled that food right into their bowls? I guess the 15,000 people who died a couple of years ago in that tsunami off the coast of Japan should have been thinking happy thoughts.
Contrary to the perception of some, I am not fascinated by the macabre, nor am I a depressive type. I enjoy a good belly laugh at least 4 times a week, lose myself quite effectively in music on a daily basis, and find great joy in the simple things like cats, ice cream and the play of sun through trees. That said, there are things that are wrong in the world, and there are things that go wrong in the world. As a result, people, animals and the planet suffers. Stick your head in the sand and hum yourself a tune if you want to, just don’t be surprised when trouble comes knocking on your own door someday. And that’s despite all your happy thoughts.