Interesting Times

May you live in interesting times.
Fake Chinese curse per Wiki

It *is* fake, sadly, and so says The Quote Investigator, not just Wiki. Why sadly? Because it neatly captures the conundrum.

I like interesting books. Interesting people. Interesting theories. Interesting architecture. I *really* like interesting bridges. So why should the phrase “interesting times” provoke a different reaction? And yet it does. Somehow it doesn’t make me think of the Renaissance or the Age of Exploration, which unfolded slowly. I think instead of times that started with a bang: literally or figuratively. Any and every war. The Great Depression. Even the social upheaval of the 1960s. Interesting times indeed, but the label only seems to apply when I have the luxury of a retro-perspective. 

Because, of course, at the human level these were also uncertain times. Precarious and anxiety-making times. Dangerous and unsettling times. Scary and difficult and unpredictable times. And — maybe worst of all – unschedulable times. Going into WWII, for instance, of course no one knew how it would end. But neither did they know when.

I find it hardest to adjust to unpleasantness when I don’t know for how long I have to do it. I think of my lower-back pain that comes without warning and leaves when it’s ready. Of the foot soreness that appears overnight from nowhere. As each charming ache-and-pain episode arises I first wonder, “Is this a permanent blight on the otherwise sunshiny landscape of my life, or a passing irritation?” And then I get a grip, because surely it won’t be permanent, but then I wonder, “How long do I have to hold on?”

I’ve never watched the clock, waiting for cancer-pain medication administered on a schedule, or watched a loved one do it, but that scene always brings me to tears. Because, of course, it neatly captures so many aspects of our human condition.

And it neatly captures what I’m feeling now with the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are in interesting times, for sure. They won’t last forever, I’m pretty sure. But whether this pandemic is a mildly painful inconvenience (as it is for me) or economic and personal agony (as it is for some others), how long do we have to hold on?

 

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7 Responses to Interesting Times

  1. Pingback: May You Live Long Enough | Traditional Iconoclast

  2. My worry is that the current pandemic is potentially a many-headed monster. COVID-19, which may surge both sooner and later, may be only another in a series of potentially catastrophic pandemics. The international efforts to forge benign ethical standards that were based on conventional and then on atomic warfare had barely shifted towards cyber threats when chemical and germ warfare arose from the murk with frothing jaws. I have never read the book of Revelation as a prophecy in the historical sense, except in its near and, to us, distant historical context. But, as Seth Meyers says, it might be time for “a closer look.” We have barely begun to see the economic and social chaos Trump-plus-COVID-19 has wrought. At the least, he is fomenting civil war (Portland being the latest link in that particular chain). And I cannot imagine the entire US turning on a dime even if Biden wins the election and surrounds himself with archangels. I imagine we all have lots of holding on time ahead of us. But that doesn’t mean our hands are tied from contributing to the best kinds of |Change, as Octavia reminds us.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Hmm. I see no archangels on offer from any party in Canada or the USA. Or, indeed, anywhere. With respect to managing COVID-19 my own guess is that we won’t know what’s “worked” until about two years down the road. And even then, opinions will vary, depending in part on whether the one making the assessment had a guaranteed job/pension or not.

      • I agree about the shortage of archangels! I am guessing that the huge effort to develop a vaccine or a cure for someone sick with the illness will come within months. I read that some human trials for several vaccines are already at the third stage of testing. But I am less sanguine about the international tensions and the ages-old tendency to fight rather than to cooperate. And I never imagined there would be a time when the US could break into civil war, which is conceivable if Trump refuses to step down after an election he loses.

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          Laurna – Maybe I’m too sanguine but I don’t suspect Trump of trying to hold onto power illegally. And I have a fair amount of faith in the American institutions of government, at least for something like this. I guess we’ll see!

  3. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – put another way, “Be careful what you wish for!” What you wish for can also lead to interesting times – and always remember, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – LOL It’s a good thing that I don’t think wishing for something affects its likelihood! Of course your other point is still troubling . . . 🙂

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