THE OPTIMISTS - Sharon Leach

Musgrave medallist, author, and screenwriter

Sunday, November 11, 2018

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It seemed the right thing to do ahead of diving straight into the 'silly season', and in this time of incredible love and hate, confidence and fear, fake news and alternative truths, to hear shared voices of optimism. SO asked the question: What's your take on optimism?

A passage of scripture inEcclesiastesfamously lists a series of contrasts, noting that for everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. I believe we are living in a time of breaking down. Not just for us in Jamaica. In this universal time of disillusionment and disappointment with world systems, it is easy to see that so many things around us are collapsing. But I don't despair because, as that same scripture informs, after this time of breaking down inevitably comes the time of building up again.

That's what gets me out of bed each day, I imagine, rather than drilling down and burying myself into my neck like a turtle. The thought that what is being torn down will once again be restored. I don't think one necessarily has to have religious faith to believe that things will eventually be better, either. If you've lived for any significant amount of time, as I have, you understand this principle. Any student of history can tell you: life goes through peaks and valleys. Ancient great civilizations (the Aztec and Incan empires come immediately to mind) have today fallen into decline, lost to history. We know that history is often told from the perspective of winners, and so, I guess, the question is: how will this time, this moment we are currently a part of, be recorded by history?

We will come out, I have to believe, purified after being tried by fire. I have no other choice.

On the streets of the Corporate Area, every day we encounter brokenness of the infrastructure which, we're told, is to facilitate wider roads, glossier city centres. We can't see that now. What we see is the headache and precariousness of the streets, and the inconvenience of the delays, and stress it is causing. Not to mention, when it rains. But one must always see the big picture: even if it means closing our eyes and visualising the change that must come eventually. I have to tell myself this daily. Bearing witness to the #MeToo and Time'sUp movements gives me extraordinary hope, as well, because in spite of everything conspiring to continue to stifle the voices of women across the world, the genie is not going back into the bottle.

My relationships with women (my sisterfriends) are, every day, being strengthened as we keep each other honest. My relationship with the editor of this magazine, in particular, is a thing of beauty even as she pushes me constantly to shake off feelings of crippling inability by, yes, kicking my ass and insisting I do what I have been put here to do: write. Novia, I only hope I have influenced you even a fraction of how you've influenced me.

But, back to the times in which we're living. Understand this: our Kingston roadways are really only metaphor for the general sense of wreckage and chaos that permeate the news, both locally and internationally, oftentimes making me loathe to even bother finding out what's going on. I find myself often in the position these days of studiously avoiding the TV and the MSN homepage, opting instead to employ an unlikely coping mechanism: immersing in cute cat videos. And, trust me, I'm not even that big of a cat lover. But, after all, isn't that better than easier, more palatable, than pondering news items that only highlight man's seemingly increasing propensity for cruelty to his fellow man?

Still, I am an artist. An artist who plays with words for a living. And what good are my words if I don't use them to effect change in my world? I am heartened by the fact that, across the world, millennials are creatively incorporating technology into their works. I am excited to be bearing witness that, in spite of the harshness that exists now, beauty is still to be found in these works, and they have boundless potential to inspire mine! When I was coming up, I had no idea what my destiny was, let alone how I would fulfil it. I knew it would involve words and writing because I was a great lover of books. But seeing how young people these days have embraced their destinies as writers and are moving into them, unafraid, with their manuscripts and screenplays, is, to me, inspirational. The world I know will not pass away even when I'm gone. It's in safe hands with the generation that's emerging.

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