Thursday, November 05, 2009

This and That

When researching the life of poet André Chenier I did some reading about the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, a horrific time, in which massacre followed massacre; nobility, clergy, dissidents alike formed a steady stream toward the guillotine.

Reading how Chenier himself was affected gave me a narrow view of the events. I searched the internet and found an overview of the Revolution, the causes, issues, duration, effects, in Revolution and After .

Dickens aptly wrote of the age in A Tale of Two Cities :

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 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, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the 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.

The revolutionaries began with noble goals: an end to the tyranny and the outrageous privileges that aristocracy and clergy saw as their due, and liberty, equality, fraternity for all. Perhaps the idealists envisioned a peaceful transfer of power from the monarchy to the people.

It was not to be. The rest, as they say, is history.

As often happens, I continued reading about Napoleon, his rise, his glory, his fall. A couple of pages do not do him justice; I see further reading in my future. My father's library, which I inherited, has several fat books about Napoleon and his wars.

I'll add them to the TBR (To Be Read ) pile.


My mother, age 88, is devoted to following the news. From morning news radio, to newspapers which she reads from first page to last (even the sports), to local, national, and international news on tv, to the Letterman Show (hey, he presents news, doesn't he?) she is well-informed about it all. Opinionated, too, frequently venting at newscasters, politicians, and situations that parade past on the tube.

She is the master of the rhetorical "why": why would a man kill his small children; why would those thugs beat up a gay man; why spend billions to send rockets into the air when the economy is so bad; why is the government doing/not doing this, that, or the other...

I used to try to answer her questions. Then I realized she knows there are no answers, and this is her way of trying to make sense of a world that has changed so drastically over her lifetime, yet has also not changed at all.

Besides, I don't have any real answers. They're all blowing in the wind. (more on this coming)