As 2015 ends and 2016 begins, the manuscript for Peace at Last has grown well beyond 1,000 pages. The size doesn’t surprise me, as both Alfred Nobel and Bertha von Suttner lived relatively long and extraordinary lives. The manuscript’s length is also in keeping with the book’s title and major themes. Peace doesn’t come quickly; it requires continual effort to energize and cultivate it. With that in mind, the two words “at last” have as much resonance as the word “peace” in the book’s title.
In order to maintain my own momentum while writing, I often recall Bertha’s words: “Persist, persist, and continue to persist.” This is solid advice for anyone embarking on a major project, whether it’s a major treaty between nations or a historical novel. It also seems appropriate for anyone contemplating major life changes or compiling a list of challenging resolutions for the year ahead.
There is no doubt in my mind that Alfred Nobel would have agreed with Bertha’s maxim. Being a scientist, he fully understood the value of patience and the importance of repetition and due diligence. Speaking about his inventions, he once said, “If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied.” Nobel knew all too well that “trial and error” was the foundation of the scientific process, with many, many failures preceding (and often informing) any eventual success. Even after a major discovery, a scientist needs to repeat the experiment and replicate the results in order to prove that the theory holds true at all times and in all places. Following that, one could spend a lifetime improving upon a discovery, much as Alfred did with his explosive devices and other inventions.
Both Bertha and Alfred were lucky that the strength of their passions matched this demand for persistence. As we begin a new year, it’s worth renewing our own commitments to peace around the world—not just in one particular moment or place, but always and everywhere as much as is humanly possible.