Saturday, June 1, 2013

Best and Worst of Times

Best and Worst of Times
Months before the Boston Marathon Bombing, the words of Charles Dickens, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" had been occupying my thoughts.  The "high" of the Mayan new beginnings calendar on December 21, 2012, when the world seemed to be filled with hope and expectation, felt like a dim memory.  Instead, a daily dose of negative news and unpleasant events spoiled the atmosphere.  As if that weren't enough, I watched a couple incidents unfold recently that made me question the behavior of some individuals for whom I had great respect.  That was a particularly difficult experience.

So with thoughts of "the best of times and the worst of times" stirring in the background, the Boston Marathon Bombing happened.  It brought up deeply etched memories of the World Trade Towers and of Newtown, still so raw in the ether.  I was talking to an Israeli friend about the bombing.  He looked so complacent as I expressed outrage about the brutality of humans.  I inquired why he was so disinterested.  He said, "This is something we live with every day in Israel.  Your country is new to bombings!"

His words made me wonder about all the bombings or shootings we've witnessed.  Which event was the worst one?  Or are they cumulative in the course of the human journey.  If cumulative, do we, like the Israelis, (or the Iraqis or Afghans) get used to it?  And if we do become complacent, what does that say about our own humanity?

Human atrocities have been recorded endlessly.  Which was the worst one?  Every generation can point to an event as the worst of times.   For some it was the World Wars, not just in the 20th  century but in previous ones where hundreds of thousands were killed or maimed.  Others say the worst of times was the Holocaust or during other ethnic cleansing.  Was the worst of times when the bubonic plague killed 50% of Europe's population or when the flu pandemic of 1918 killed 5% of the world's population?  The worst of times is what each individual is living through and experiencing in a negative way at any given moment.

So what's the best of times?  Probably the same thing except change the word negative to positive.  The bombings will occur, whether in this country or another country.  The trick is not to become complacent about the horror of the acts.  The bombings represent humanity's savage nature.  But the bombings also reveal the best of times in humanity's journey.  Not knowing if other bombs would go off, many rushed to help the wounded victims.  Others opened their homes to runners.  A restaurant brought out food and water.  Those helpers who gave of themselves represent the best of times in all of us.

Are we in the best of times or the worst of times?  It all depends on your perspective and how you deal with the events presented.  If "they" bomb, help the injured and rebuild.  When "they" engage in hate filled words, hold the high ground.  When "they" disappoint with poor behavior, forgive and move on.  When good people commit to doing something to better the plight of their fellow humans only then do the worst of times become the best of times!
Jo Mooy - June 2013