It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, 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 Life, 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, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way-in short, the period was so far the like present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Thus Charles Dickens scribbled in 1859 as the opening gambit to his novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. ‘Tis a remarkable sentence of free prose, dark, insightful, haunting, positive but unsettling, containing all the qualities necessary to be both memorable and eternally relevant.
The volume itself is in its completed form studied as one if the masterpieces of historical fiction in schools and colleges around the globe, yet noticeably it is this opening statement, with the sad and moving final narrative of Sydney Carton that encapsulate perfectly the chaotic state of human existence and the redeeming quality of selfless love.
Dickens was a man touched by much darkness, but whom strove to use his growing fame and good fortune to positively improve the lot of those persons who suffered most cruelly in the Victorian age, namely children and unfortunate women. His fascinations in these arenas could be perceived as unhealthy but disregarding the place from whence his inclinations arose his efforts greatly helped to illustrate and alleviate the plight of human suffering.
Changs comes through illumination, when an individual no matter their motives, shines a light upon some terrible truth lurking in the shadows. Society is far too hasty to discount the opinions of those with ulterior motives, forgetting that selfishness is the original spur to most positive achievements. Altruism is a most rare quality, one to be cherished, praised, but recognized for its exceptionalism within human nature. Much better to play the more plentiful card of egocentrism.