“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 direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
And so begins one of my favorite staples of classic English literature, ‘A Tale Of Two Cities‘, of course referring to the years leading up to the tumultuous French Revolution of 1789. Though it would be too bold for me to even dream of writing a paragraph so simple and yet so effective during the course of my squandered life, the good Charles Dickens has prompted me, nay, has inspired me, with the words aforementioned, with, well, with a singular thought. Applying his description to an altogether different concept, however very similar, in the machinery of contrast and the presence of two possible outcomes.
Dickens wrote those words about the Reign of Terror, which erupted in 1789, seventy years later in 1859 when he could aptly compare the two social and political environments between his native England and that of France. I believe that the same comparison, by context alone, can be applied between Dickens’ England and the current global state – some one-hundred and fifty years after ‘Two Cities‘ was authored.
The year is 2011. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. It is a time of technological enlightenment, it is a time of nuclear warfare, it is the time of political winds of change in the west, it is a time of diseased regimes in the east, it is a time of social awareness, it is a time of environmental meltdown; we are at the height of organized religion’s reach, we are at the depth of sin; the global village is more accessible than ever, alienation is at an all-time high. My point is, much like Dickens’ was, that we are either on the brink of enlightenment or on the eve of destruction.
For every new set of hands that clenches together in prayer another set clenches the warm mag of a machine gun. The popularity and practice of arts is rising as is the popularity and abuse of drugs. The amount of people that believe in war equal those who believe in peace, but very few people, as compared to the past, stand in the middle. We are opening laboratories and creating life and we are opening fire in high schools and taking it – neither of which occurred fifty years ago. It almost seems that if somehow we manage to save ourselves from the crumbling ecosystem around us, we might actually live to see our technological progress usher in a season of hope. The world is so very fucked up and most of its residents, working and playing and playing and working, are in such splendid, self-induced ignorance. Will we still be working and playing and playing and working when the bombs come crashing down? Or when the sky begins to rain fire as it has at least once in the long and winding path of natural history? Will our oxygen one day refuse to come to work and leave us clutching our throats for air. Or will all our diligent working and playing and playing and working create such a dervish that we’ll twirl ourselves out of harms way? Could that very same dervish not cause us to spin ourselves into an irreparable downward spiral faster and more vehement that ever before? Will you, or have you ever, taken the time to consider while you are working and playing and playing and working whether you are part of the problem or part of the solution? Where is the line between the two?
Something very monumental lies in the thick fog of time before us, and we cannot see it, nor predict it or even prepare for it – which unfortunately doesn’t alter the looming fact that it’s still there. That fog will lift and make visible to us the road ahead, however, whether it will be paved with years of peace and awakening or set a blaze with the fiery licks of penance and ruination is a question that even those that say they can indeed answer it, can’t.