“It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times“
~ Charles Dickens
These are, perhaps, the most famous and recognized phrases in English Literature. They are from the novel, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, 1859.
Below, I quote the entire initial sentence in its full mastery. First, I want to say why I’ve chosen this as a focus for today’s blog article.
When I began Marshall House Consulting many years ago, these words came strongly to my mind. I started my business in the best of times and the worst of times.
I expect it's because I studied English Literature in prep school and college that the words came so easily to my mind. I have had times in my life, especially times of major change, when these words echoed in my ears. Sometimes they were in a high school teacher's voice, or my mother’s voice, or my own voice.
And when I was writing my blog article earlier this week, (Who is an Entrepreneur?), these words again came into my mind as I was interacting with the four entrepreneurs I quoted in that article. It is usually a big step to become a solo entrepreneur, and continue toward success. These can be times filled with contradictions and contrasts and opposites.
Charles Dickens was writing about tumultuous political issues at the time, in the two cities of Paris, France and London, England. Likely, anyone reading his novel at the time of its writing would have easily related to the political situation.
I don’t interpret the words quite as literally as an historian might because I’m not very political. And I did not live in Dickens’ time. Nor have I ever lived in either city. Instead, I find them comforting in acknowledging the contrasts of my own current times. I tend to apply the ideas to essentially all situations.
We live in a world of duality. This is a world of contrasts where opposites must coexist. Without them, there is no growth or personal development.
When faced with opposition, we might think the best action is to eliminate one part of the duality. Or to fight it. Or to block it out. Or to make one dynamic right and the other dynamic wrong. And for some, that may result in peacefulness, at least temporarily.
Others may find greater peacefulness in embracing the opposites and allowing them to coexist. This takes greater management and greater tolerance, and often, love. It takes an understanding that there is a dynamic continuum, and finding our place on each continuum is the most worthy goal.
In reflecting on my own life, I have often found great peacefulness in acknowledging that “these are the best of times; these are the worst of times.“ And when I can say those words and feel them with equanimity, I usually find peace or at least move toward greater peacefulness.
And so now I quote IN FULL the entire first sentence of the novel.
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,
Copyright © 2019 Marshall House and Voice of Jeanie Marshall. All rights reserved. Jeanie Marshall is a Personal Development Consultant and Coach. This article is not available for republication without express written permission.