Back to the future

I was talking with a 78-year-old friend recently, who opined, “This is just a crazy time; things have never been this bad.” She was referring to the current financial crisis, and I had to remind her that there have been turbulent and catastrophic “times” throughout history.

Interestingly, I have just begun listening to Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” which begins: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …”

In her preface to “Great Lion of God,” a novel about the Apostle Paul, Taylor Caldwell writes about “turbulent times” seemingly ripped from today’s headlines. So dead on is she about the world around you, she leaves you wishing for a return to better times. Then, in conclusion, she reveals that these events were all taking place in the time of the apostle from Tarsus.

For The Comments Zone, as the world seeks a solution to its current economic woes, I leave you to comtemplate this marvelous quote by Walter Benjamin:

“A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel, his eyes staring, looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead and make whole what has been smashed, but a storm is blowing in from Paradise. It has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future, to which his back is turned while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call PROGRESS.”

- Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” 1940.

PAINTING: “Angelus Novus” by Paul Klee, 1920.


Frodo, never did like Heston much said...

Frodo, while contemplating this, the 17th month of the deepest pure recession in our national experience, recognized that the Pharoah (Yul Brynner,wasn't it?) was visited by seven fatted calves, and seven on the thin side. Frodo's math puts the end of this cycle somewhere around Thanksgiving, 2114. Cranberry sauce, anyone?

B.J. said...

Damn, I was hoping the well-traveled hobbit could tell us which museum currently houses this painting, or whether it is in the hands of a wealthy foreigner???? Guess I’ll have to do a little googling when there’s time. BJ

Infidel753 said...

The hysterics over the current recession are just ridiculous. Yes, it's bad, and may well end up being about as bad in the US as the 1982 recession (measured by unemployment levels, which are what have the most impact on the average person). But we're not even in telescope range of the figures for unemployment and economic contraction that marked the Great Depression. The CBO and Bernanke both anticipate our economy will be on the mend well before the end of this year, and I think they understand the economy rather better than most columnists and bloggers do.

As for the "turbulent times" and "signs of the End Times" we're always hearing about, when has there not been corruption in high places, sexual misbehavior, and turmoil in the Middle East?

On balance most of humanity is far better off today than it has ever been before, and despite the inevitable ups and downs, things will only continue to improve.

B.J. said...

I-753, good comment. I wasn’t suggesting eschatology, just the fact that people always think the bad times in their generation are the worst ever and the good times, the best. (Geez, that came out with no thought of Dickens.) I’m listening to “The Ghost Map” about the cholera outbreak in London in the mid-1800s. I’d say we have it pretty good compared to the conditions then. We’ve been pretty spoiled, though, and I hope we are able to meet adversity if it knocks. BJ