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—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
~ Charles Dickens
Today it’s more true than ever. We live in a strange and wonderful world with advanced technologies, and far more freedoms than my ancestors, particularly the female ones, ever experienced. I have an e-reader that has hundreds of books on it at my disposal, a watch that takes phone calls, a phone I use mostly for playing games and taking pictures, I have purple hair, a pierced nose, and scars from where cancer was cut out of my body.
In an earlier age, I might be dead by now, if not from the cancer, than from just being a woman who’s too smart and too different for her own good. I would have outed myself eventually. I would have trusted the wrong person, Or I would have pissed off the right one accidentally— or even on purpose. When I get mad enough, I tend to forget about consequences.
But I also live in a strange and terrible world that is collapsing in on itself and on us. Plastic fills our waters and climate change goes unchecked and not enough of us seem to care.
The difference today is that we are creating the worst of times to end all worst of times. We are creating it on a planet-wide scale. Climate change knows no borders, unlike the French Revolution of Dickens’s masterpiece. We have raised the stakes on both the good and the bad. We have so much more to loose than ever before. It’s a shame to have come all this way to still be stuck in the same duality. Man is a short-sighted creature for all his ability to look into the past and into the future.
People tend to forget about consequences when they’re comfortable. We’ll act counter to our own best interest for short term fulfillment. Denial has led us down the road to despair over and over again, and yet still insist that the rut we are in is a good place to be. Instead it may be the death of us.
Today, I’ve been thinking about what I can do on a personal scale. I know it’s not enough on its own, but I also know I’m not the only one out there who is looking with a critical eye to their own behaviors and the consequences arising from them. Many little changes across many people do add up.
Change isn’t going to happen by accident. It requires tenacity and a willingness to struggle or to do without out. It’s better suited to the young. As we get older we become brittle from the baggage of our lives. If we bend, we break off bits of ourselves. Bits that we need to be rid of, but that are no less painful to shed.
I’m bending and breaking a lot these days, in a lot of different directions. Despite that it feels none to good as it’s happening, it’s a reflection of the “best of times”. We are in an age of wisdom like none before. If ever we were capable of pulling ourselves out of this well worn rut, this is the time. The future awaits.
The first draft of this didn’t have that last paragraph, instead it ended with “Dickens may be wrong this time. It’s not the best of times only the worst of times.” I was in a mood. Lost. Sad. Still not fully recovered from the emotional drubbing I took the week before when I unintentionally broke off some of that brittle baggage I mention above.
I let it sit for a few days before I came back to edit it and knew it was the wrong message. Yes, it’s a terrible time, the worst of the worst times ever… but there is still so much potential. It’s not too late to shift the balance. Little by little, habit by habit, change by change, person by person, one brittle piece at a time.