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 ….”
- Charles Dickens (Tale of Two Cities)
This may be the most famous literary opening to a book of all time. Well. At least the first line.
I tend to believe everyone knows … it was the best of times … it was the worst of times.
But I also tend to believe most people don’t know the rest … and they should because the entire opening is incredible.
Especially … “we had everything before us … we had nothing before us …”
The thought you can have everything and nothing at the same time is a Life truth.
Your experience of the moment depends on what you choose to focus on.
Dickens has done an amazingly simple job outlining the contradiction, and tension, life gives us.
And I think about how it sums up the contradictory nature of every year, and indeed every day, of our lives.
And how it suggests that good and evil, wisdom and ignorance, and light and darkness stand equally matched in their struggle.
And that while we truly have everything ahead of us at any point in life … life is simply an empty vessel to be filled with whatever that ‘everything’ may be.
It reminds you of the ‘perfect’ day (it was the best of times).
It reminds you of the imperfect day (it was the worst of times).
It reminds you of having dreams and the faith and trust that it will work out and how you envision the outcome with all your heart and soul (it was the epoch of belief).
It reminds you of how fragile dreams as how often they can crumble before your eyes <and how you wonder why it happens to you> (it was the epoch of incredulity).
It reminds you of hope … hope for something good … or better than what is (it was the spring of hope).
It reminds you that sometimes hope is simply that … hope … and not a guarantee of reality or what will be (it was the winter of despair).
It is a reminder that while we may want to always live life ‘in the moment’ and in the ‘now’ in an attempt to maximize what is … lives and experiences and moments are built on duality.
If we don’t experience the moments of sorrow or despair we can’t fully appreciate the moments of hope attained and joy.
I believe people don’t have to revel in the duality but possibly find solace, if not hope, within the duality.
And possibly find joy in the contradiction rather than despair at the unevenness.
Failed dreams can beget new dreams.
New realities can lead to needed life changes.
Even in times of feeling like you have everything you desire <or at least a lot> you can still experience lack of something.
I really love this Charles Dickens quote.
Many people have a view that a happy and fulfilling life should consist only of highs <or maybe better said … a significantly higher % of highs than lows>. , Or that a positive life should consist only of certainty <shelving fear and doubt in order to be successful>. Or should focus on success without failure.
This is flawed thinking in my mind.
Frankly it sets us up for disappointment.
No matter how you plan your day, year, or life, it will have times of … the best, the worst, wisdom, foolishness, belief, incredulity, light, darkness, hope, despair, everything and nothing.
If you accept that fact, well, it is awful hard to plan a life if that is the case.
So maybe instead of planning we should just live it … and enjoy the duality and the contradictions.
“In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.” ― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Maybe being a hero is not living a cowardly life and accepting what is right, and wrong, about Life … oh … and doing the right thing <when you know it is right> and not doing the wrong thing <when you know it is wrong>.
Simple thought … but a difficult thought.
Well. Maybe just a thought.