This famous quote by Charles Dickens is the first line of his novel “The Tale of Two Cities”, a historical novel about the years leading up to the French revolution. It is a standard example in writing classes about “How to begin a novel” because it not only sticks with you, but also intrigues you to no end. Every author dreams about finding a first line like that.
And it has been constantly used in past months to describe the times we live in. So, inevitably, here comes my version of it 😊
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
We have been deprived, we have been isolated. We have been terribly sick and lost loved ones. Our concept of life suddenly needed considerable re-shifting or was simply put on hold. Children were hampered in their development by being taken out of school and the patience of parents was stretched beyond measure.
But in many ways, it was also the best of times. A moment to breath, that our fast-paced world would never have granted us otherwise. More than that, a removal of all filters. Stripped of consumption, travelling or whatever other distraction, life was suddenly reduced to its essence. To the people around us. It has given us time with them, time which was always scarce before because there were so many things to do. We needed to divide our time, to not split ourselves in two we arranged time slots and dates weeks in advance. But there is no love in haste.
The working life seems to be refocused, stripped of unecessary rituals and time-wasting trips and meetings. On to a new productivity that at the same time allows us to live, allows families to act like one. We tend to cling to things we consider normal, but what the modern working life did to our relationships was far from normal. And the social element will come back, it is not lost forever, we will not be banned to home office for the rest of our lives. Even if the arrangements are far from perfect right now, they allow for a new vision to bring it all together.
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
So much wisdom has been gained and put to good use. The pace with which vaccines have been developed and knowledge has been gathered, was breathtaking. It was a reminder what technology and science are actually good for: To solve the problems we are facing as a society. Amidst all our wealth, it had seemed that technology was mostly used to satisfy our vanity – or to build weapons to kill more efficiently. As a counter-reaction, people wanted nothing to with it, began to fear biotechnological progress without understanding it. Wanted to eat like people in the stone ages or withdrew from all virtual life.
But then again, this pandemic may very well enter in the history books as the age of foolishness. How mankind blinds itself to all it does not want to see. The danger of a pandemic has been known for decades and has become more acute with globalization. And yet in most parts of the world, it took forever to react, even after we saw the suffering in Wuhan despite the Chinese rigor. It was foolishness, of the most human kind, the clinging to an unfounded hope, that brought us this pandemic in the first place.
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
The pandemic has divided us by our beliefs. Whatever conviction we kept in the drawer before, now it is most likely out in the open. “How do you hold it with the Pandemic?” has become the modern Gretchentest. I have recently taken up online dating, and this turns out to be the best question to understand within seconds what breed of man sits in front of you.
The dissolution of reality started much earlier, alternative facts came alive way before the pandemic, the beautiful mastermind behind it too. But this crisis has finally openly divided people in those which feel they can navigate the world as we know it and those who feel so lost in it that they rather join groups that gather in an alternative universe, where nothing is what it seems. It was an enlightening experience for some, and a descent in total darkness for others. An incredulity towards reality, more fundamental that what we have ever experienced before. It revealed that in a modern world, where fight or flight is no longer the ruling principle, the real struggle is not for money or power, it is for sanity.
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…
Spring with its warmth and colors gave us so much hope to win this battle and to be out and feel alive again. Exactly what spring is all about. And when this hope was scattered by the end of summer, it really meant a dark and tough winter. To hang in there and wait for another spring of hope…But we will all remember it. Though the winter 20/21 might have been dull, eventless and draining, it also had an intensity that will forever be engrained in our minds and hearts:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.