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On the Best & Worst of Times

A few weeks ago I came across an excerpt from C. S. Lewis’s Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays* where the British writer of Narnian fame commented on the anxiety of the Atomic Age (highlights are my own):

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

I’ve been remarking to a few friends lately that these really are the Best and Worst of Times (Dickens, not Lewis). Or rather, this is the Best Time to have the Worst Time and simultaneously also the Worst Time to have the Best Time.

I’m in the prime of my youth, have savings in the bank, all the comforts like electricity and hot water that come with living in a first-world country, and enough culinary skills to keep me from panic buying baked beans and pancake mix. This is the Best Time possible for me to be weathering COVID-19. And yet the reverse is also true.

I quit my job almost two months ago, the industry I wanted to enter was decimated the week after I had just submitted a few tentative resumes to it, I can’t host any pop-ups or feed anyone at the moment, my investment portfolio lost a third of its value, and I can’t travel or explore during this time of self-reflection. One could say I picked the Worst Time to try to live my best life.

In a way this goes for all of us, all the time. We’re permanently and simultaneously in the best position we’ll ever be to weather the crises of life and in the worst position to live the perfect ones we dream of. Let us then live in this age of dis-ease as we have in the age of bombs, plagues, and railway accidents – doing sensible and human things.

*via Maxwell Anderson’s Weekend Reader (I highly recommend subscribing to one of the more thoughtful newsletters you’ll read) who in turn found it on Brad Feld’s blog.


Melhor e Pior

Currently enjoying this twist on the Capirinha mixing the best and worst. Mix the below in a glass filled with crap ice then top with bodega soda water.

– 1.5 oz. Cachaça Seleta (or similarly shitty rum),
– 0.5 oz. Lemongrass-infused Batavia Arrack (or just add another 0.5 oz. of Seleta if you want to skew on the pior side),
– juice of 1/4 to 1/2 a lemon or lime,
– 0.5 oz. of ginger syrup (or plain simple syrup or even just 2 teaspoons of sugar)

Filed under: Recipes, Snack

About the Author

Posted by

Paolo Española is a wandering diner in search of a good meal and an ever-elusive identity. He started this blog during a soul-crushing stint as an Accountant and later co-founded Hidden Apron, his side project that’s dabbled in everything from private catering, hosting pop-up dinners, podcasting, and everywhere in between. He is a contributing author to the best-selling cookbook, “The New Filipino Kitchen” and believes that food is a universal language that can solve the world's most challenging problems, help people believe in their own potential, create communities to shared stories, and realize that in Breaking Bread, we Break Boundaries.

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