It was the best of times and the worst of times

“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.”а - A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens


Do you remember these opening lines to Dickens’ literary classic, A Tale of Two Cities?а Actually, I remember the movie more than the book, which was on my required reading list in school. I think it was the 1935 version, starring Ronald Colman, the British actor, as the lead character, Sydney Carton, who does a switcheroo with his lookalike, Charles Darnay. Darnay is an aristocrat in a French prison waiting to be beheaded, but Carton takes his place and goes to the guillotine – all for love of Lucie, Darnay’s wife. And who could forget Madame Defarge, the bloodthirsty villainess and revolutionary, who gleefully knits a woolen hit list of aristocrats, while she watches the executions. The story plays out against the backdrop of the French Revolution when France’s oppressed peasantry turned on the аaristocracy with a vengeance, bringing down a reign of terror and brutality. Dickens, a champion of the underclass, was drawing parallels to life in London at the time, where the poor were just as brutalized by the ruling class as their French counterparts.

I’m not drawing any parallels to our situation today, although no doubt I could. The quote just popped into my mind as I was pondering why I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this blog. Everything seems such a mess. We live in an insane time, with horrors piling up one on top of the other as fast as CNN and other news sources can report them. Is it fueled by their need to keep their news fresh and “relevant” (and competitive)? Or are we such bad news junkies that they’re simply pandering to our voracious appetite for the horrific? Reminds me of watching local TV news on slow news days when the reporting is mainly off the police blotter. When there’s nothing to report, crime and disaster are default fillers.

Some days, I’m overwhelmed by it all – school and mall shootings by alienated youth, kidnappings of hundreds of young African girls for nefarious purposes, sectarian wars in the name of religion (could we be on the brink of another Middle East war?), and on and on. I won’t even get into politics. I am truly sick of it.а

Even nature is on a rampage, and some people may see the fires, floods and tornadoes as acts of an avenging god who thinks we’re bad people for allowing same sex marriage for homosexuals and lesbians. They’d rather believe in an angry Zeus throwing thunderbolts at us than in global warming.

Of course, it’s not all terrible news. I think news organizations are smart enough to realize that there’s only so much we – or they, for that matter -- can take. So they also report on stories that show us the better sides of our nature. Who would have thought this ex-Catholic would gladly read about Pope Francis? Remember, not too long ago, we were aghast at the revelations of pedophilia in the church. Or how about Malala, the Pakistani schoolgirl who defied the Taliban by demanding that girls be allowed to get an education, and was shot in the head for her troubles. But see, here’s the thing. As I try to list the feel good stories, they don’t jump out at me as quickly as the bad ones. Even Malala is old news. So what does that say about me?а As I write this, let me scan the day’s HuffPost front page. They seem to like feel-good stories. Yes, the US won a World Cup game. That’s pretty much it.

How about something informative and uplifting? “Why Using Toilet Seat Liners is Basically Pointless.” Huh? Turns out, seat liners are more for our own comfort and peace of mind. I mean, who knows who or what was there before you? But the experts say that you won’t catch anything from toilet seats. Apparently, the skin on our hineys serves as an effective germ barrier.а Better to pay attention to the sign that encourages you to wash your hands thoroughly with good old soap and water.а See, you learn something new everyday. As for being uplifting – guys, just remember to lift that toilet seat before you pee. I think I’ll still use the seat liner.

Which brings me back to Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …” I hear you, Charlie.

Some days I feel like

Crawling into a cave and

Unplugging the world.

ай Maya Leland 2014