It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going to heaven, we were all going the other way, in short, the period was so far like the present period….
Most will recognize this quote as the opening paragraph of the Tale of Two Cities written by Charles Dickens and published in 1859. The story was set within the backdrop of the French revolution in the late 1700 period.
So, what is the point you may ask? “The period was so far like the present period…”. True we are not butchering people with a guillotine, but I can’t help comparing the cultural upheaval of the time to the pandemic situation we find the world in today. The anxiety, the fear, the uncertainty, the upheaval in daily routines, the economic turmoil, and the effect that they all have on the human psychic.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”. Well, it isn’t hard to believe that today is the worst of times. After all, we are hammered constantly by the papers, the talking heads on TV, and politicians that it is all doom and gloom and all may be lost. However, I would submit that this is not the worst of times. Yes, perhaps it is the worst of times for the younger generations, but it is not the worst of times for others, nor in history. Yes, many will die from this virus. However, far fewer than in other pandemics, and in several wars, the American civil war and two world wars among them. Those deaths were not all soldiers either. Tens of thousands of civilians died from hunger, abuse, disease, and exposure then.
Please understand that I’m not making light of the current situation, just trying to put it in some rational scope and framework. So, yes it is a bad time, but perhaps not the worst of times.
“It was the best of times…” may be a bit harder to get our heads around in the face of the pandemic that is impacting most of the world. But, if we can cut through the finger-pointing, the schoolyard scrapping of political figures, the scrabbling for a stronger power base, the hidden agendas, and the legions of people trying to fatten their purses due to greed then perhaps we can see some silver in the lining of this cloud.
Look at all the money you are saving by not going to your favorite restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues. (Yes, I understand that thousands are facing more difficult economic difficulties than others.)
Look at the chance you have to improve your bonding with others in the household.
Look at the time you can use to reflect on what is really important in life and what you can do with your future.
Look at the opportunities to create better relationships at work, in the neighborhood, and the extended family once this is past us.
Look at the chance to reassess what is really important in your life. Things, money, relationships, strengthening religious beliefs.
Look at what you have learned about being ready for a crisis.
So, what do you see as the silver lining (s)?
Thank you, Ken, for bringing out the brighter side of humanity to the fore, with such fine words! I have no qualms about voicing my strong protest in my most recent articles, against a lop-sided system that forced all humanity to an involuntary house-arrest. On the other hand, your superb words have illuminated my vision with a renewed sense of equilibrium.
Thank you, with Warm Regards, and A Prayer for All!
Some side aspects can be considered positive:
in a few days we have solved the problem of traffic, reduced pollution, food waste, (relatively) the continuous political quarrels, we are more traceable for tax purposes because we have to show the receipt of the shopping, we have encouraged digitization and computer literacy, increased reading of books rediscovered the pleasure of healthy home cooking instead of having frugal (and not very recommendable) meals at the bar under the office, rediscovered gardening and affection for dogs (perhaps only because they allowed us to go out !? !). We have become more supportive, more sociable and eager to interact with others, we have made the majority of citizens responsible for compliance with the rules, not to turn away if they see someone who is smart, we have learned to queue in a way tidy and to wash our hands (which is no small feat).
We spend much more time with our children and partners.
We made it clear to politicians that public health needs to be reviewed in many of its aspects. We Europeans have understood what Europe is and what it is not, who is our friend and who is not.
But, is there something “profound” that is changing in society, in people’s lives?
Maybe it could happen, and everything must be done in order to happen that this “shock”, in showing the profound limits of the current development model, and in the need to look for another possible way, every government does not stop at the surface, considering only the aspect the health of men and women, but finally put the person at the center, recognising its fundamental and unique value. Only then will the coronavirus be really served! And we will be able to see immediately the same commitment of governments and businesses towards children who die of hunger and cold, on the suffering and deaths of thousands of women and men because of wars and injustices. We will understand that death from coronavirus is no longer worthy of other deaths.
Ken thank you for the Sage wisdom. I agree that we need to find the light within the situation or we will be crushed by the weight of it all. Thank you sir.
Oh yes definitely less traffic, less pollution. Our Earth is able to breathe and so are we! Family is now confronted with one another (minus social media, internet, YouTube…). Imagine family minus those things. This is a time to reflect on our lives; on the people in them; on our daily habits.
I am also of the opinion that we are facing a tragedy but with some small positive aspects. I have even read those who have drawn up a long and not questionable list, I must admit.
But, as I have already written, I do not want to make a comparison with the war because this enemy is invisible, if you are not careful you can get infected even while staying at home and you cannot avoid it using diplomacy, negotiating with the enemy, which they could and could have always make humans common sense and not guided by the greed of power.
And then I asked myself several times if, these few positive aspects will truly allow us to be a better world or if the return to normal will once again bring us back to how we were before.
Thank you for having proposed this interesting starting point for discussion and, above all, reflection.
As always Ken, great insight coupled with true wisdom my friend.
Ken – I completely agree with you – we will get through this and we can use this time to grow in our most important relationships. We just need to turn off the “doom and gloom” news and learn to treasure the “…if I had time I would…” moment with which we have been blessed.
Ken, thank you for writing and sharing your article. Indeed there is much good and much good right now. The death, the sickness, soaring unemployment, our bumbling governments and so on are negatives. On the plus side, people have come together and banded together to help and support each other like never before. More people are drawing closer to G-d and religion which is a great thing. All any of us can do is reach inside of us to pull out what us good and right. Stay safe and well.
The silver lining I see, (but more so Hope) when this is all over, is that the kindness and compassion will remain in the hearts of many. That there will be a new perspective of the meaning of working together and continue to make our country stronger than before, and finally; Trusting in God who created everything and continues to gives us all the chance to return to HIM. Blessings on this Palm Sunday.