Thursday, June 30, 2011

the worst of times?

To quote Creedence Clearwater Revival
here's what it looks like, "Lookin' out My Back Door."

Trees down everywhere. We have been pummeled by back to back to back storms. Electricity out for days. Still no phone, no air conditioning. Smashed car.

Bad times? The worst times?

"It is a form of vanity to imagine you are living in the worst of times—there have always been worse. In bad times and heavy seas, the natural fear is that things will get worse, and never better," writes essayist Lance Morrow in the June issue of Smithsonian. "Those who say the world has gone to hell may be right. It is also true that hell, contra Dante, may be temporary."

Charles Dickens begins A Tale of Two Cities with the memorable lines "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. " He was writing in the mid-1800s about France in the late 1700s. Dickens was tapping into the to-hell-in-a-hand-basket mood of his nation; still somehow folks lived through it. 

Author Robert Sullivan writes, "The United States wasn't a young country anymore; it was a country that was middle-aged and facing market changes and societal changes that were causing people to fear they were losing control of their lives, or at least their lives as they had known them for a few generations...To many observers, the political system seemed incapable of handling the problems of the day...As the country reeled from market forces, as the gap between rich and poor widened, as people strained to make a living (whether they were successful or not) saw their social and family life begin to change as a result" Sullivan was describing America in the 1830s. 

To think that today we live in the worst of times negates the hardship of those that lived through the American Civil War or any civil war, the Black Death (roughly 100 million people died in two years) or any other pandemic and certainly people that lived during either or both of the great World Wars.

Why do I ponder such? Here's the nature part of this posting: seven trees, oaks and hickories, are down all around my home. Big trees; not babies. Trees that were there long before my little house in the woods was built. It'll take months to clear the mess. But it will be cleared. That's two damage-causing hail/thunderstorms in two months that have hit my house.

But in short, we have always lived during the worst of times, but things generally got better.

Around 1330, Japanese essayist Kenkō lamented that things 
were bad and only getting worse. 

For the the rest of Morrow's Smithsonian piece that uses 14th-century Japanese essayist Yoshida Kenkō as a springboard go to "Timeless Wisdom." Its wisdom is indeed timeless.

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