The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Charles Dickens’s novel, A Tale of Two Cities, opens with the classic description of the age leading up to the French Revolution.  It speaks of a world in chaos and turmoil where contradictory pressures moved with equal and opposite force in a world with no North Star.  The novel has been read and reread since it was first published in 1845, and as these same contradictory forces continue to prevail the opening words stand as a metaphor for the ages.


How can we safely navigate times so intertwined with both light and darkness?  How we are baffled by their ability to attract and repel, push and pull, and set us up to war with our neighbor.

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And you find in all times the yin and yang of life.

In A World Lit Only by Fire, William Manchester paints a picture of the Middle Ages, when the worst of times was the lot of most people, an age of misery that prevailed for a thousand years.  And yet, strange as it may seem, an age enlightenment emerged from the darkness of those times which, for many, became the best of times.

Similarly, the generation that endured the privations the Great Depression and the Second World War lived to see a new age of prosperity and peace the likes of which the world had never known.

My Grandpa was raised on stories of the Irish Potato Famine.  These were the worst of times for the Irish people: more than a million starved to death and two million more left the country, never to return.  But through this misery a new age emerged, the age of the Irish diaspora.  Ireland’s remarkable people resettled to the far corners of the world and the very meaning of being Irish would be transformed.  My grandfather was wise enough to know the worst of times were always the starter seeds for the best of times.

Those of us who have struggled deeply with addiction and discovered the hope of recovery know this story all too well.  It is when we have reached our darkest moment that the light is able to penetrate, and we have available the gift of sobriety.

It is of no value to pretend these days are other than what they are.  We see deep divisions in the political landscapes of a growing number of countries.  We are struggling to find a coherent way forward in response to environmental degradation.  Pretending these and other issues do not exist always and only prolongs the agony of the moment.  What is of greater value is to look deep within the darkness of this time to what lies at the very bottom, for it is there we will find truth, and with truth the seeds of change.  I don’t know what those seeds will bring forth, but I trust they are there.

Just a thought…

Pat and Marsha

Copyright © 2019 Patrick J. Moriarty. All Rights Reserved.

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