Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Best of Times

 

 

We should reserve a portion of our nightly prayer to thank God that we were born into this time, this place. We live like kings. No, that’s not right. The original one percenters — the kings and queens, dukes and barons, princes and princesses, and the rest of their ilk — led lives of severe deprivation compared with our lives.

I live in a cozy warm home heated to 72 degrees in the winter. Henry the Eighth lived in the cold and drafty Hampton Court, the most modern and sophisticated palace in Europe at that time. Henry probably spent more time warming his royal bum in front his fireplace than he did chasing his future wives around the place.

I eat blueberries from Chile (for my yogurt and cereal), oranges and avocados from Southern California (for my salads), bananas from Guatemala (for my smoothies), and even a few dates from the Near East.

Henry IV’s feasts might have been large and scrumptious, fit for a king, but he also had no fruits and vegetables out of season, no oranges, bananas, avocados, and kumquats at all. Poor Henry. 

I get from place to place in a cozy, quiet Prius, listening to Fats Domino and Leon Redbone along the way. Louis XIV, the Sun King, traveled in a gilded carriage, very prettily carved with cherubim. But his ride from Versailles to the Paris hotspots was also slow, bone-jarring, and cold.

I have perfectly fitting false teeth that can chew everything in sight. Apples fear me. Queen Elizabeth I was missing a number of teeth, so when she made public appearances, she disguised her missing teeth by stuffing bits of white cloth into the gaps. 

The usual method of replacing teeth (but only for the rich) was to carve a tooth out of ivory and wire it to any remaining teeth. That left an ugly and shifting set of teeth that often fell out. 

When I near my end, I will be administered morphine to alleviate any pain before my lights go out. When Charles II of England lay dying, he was surrounded by a crowd of the best doctors in the land, all of whom inflicted, not balm, but distress and suffering, on the Merry Monarch. 

The first thing they did was bleed the poor guy in order to relieve what they believed was an excess of blood, one of the four “humours” in the body (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile). So Charles was bled until his face was ashen. The doctors did this by raking his skin with a scarifier (a device with multiple blades); they punctured his veins to let out blood; and they applied cupping glasses (heated so that a suction was created) to his skin to draw the blood up through his skin. 

In all, the hovering doctors gave poor Charles 58 different drugs of various concoctions, some of which blistered and scalded his tongue. The doctors also blew sneezing powders up his nose to relieve the pressure of “humours” on his brain. And they used a red-hot iron to blister his head, once again to force out the excessive humours.

Charles was encouraged to swallow various emetics to induce vomiting and purgatives to evacuate his intestines.. They fed him pig urine to fight his fever.

After a few days of this torture, Charles died, wracked in pain. His own screams may have been the last sound he heard.

So tonight in your prayers, send up thanks for the good fortune that allowed you to be born in this time.

Oh, while you’re at it, you might also include thanks in your prayer for being born not just in this time, but in this place. You might have been born in Somalia, after all, or Venezuela or Nigeria or Russia or Costa Rica or Baltimore. (Just kidding, Baltimore.)

We live, in Voltaire’s undying phrase, in the “best of all possible worlds.” Since gratitude is said to increase happiness and decrease depression, it’s probably good for our psyches to remind ourselves of that fact every now and then. 

 

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There are 59 comments.

  1. Slow on the uptake Thatcher

    KentForrester: We live, in Voltaire’s undying phrase, in the “best of all possible worlds.”

    Your post is excellent, and a most germane exhortation.

    Voltaire was correct in this quote, and yet. And yet, I know I’m not the only one that is regularly dissatisfied with this or that. Whine, complain, pout. Shame on me.

    • #1
    • January 21, 2020, at 7:15 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  2. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    KentForrester: We live, in Voltaire’s undying phrase, in the “best of all possible worlds.”

    Your post is excellent, and a most germane exhortation.

    Voltaire was correct in this quote, and yet. And yet, I know I’m not the only one that is regularly dissatisfied with this or that. Whine, complain, pout. Shame on me.

    You’re OK, Mr. Uptake. You’re only human. I would work on your gratitude, though. Try to be more like Shirley Temple. 

    • #2
    • January 21, 2020, at 7:19 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  3. Slow on the uptake Thatcher

    KentForrester: I eat blueberries from Chili (for my yogurt and cereal), oranges and avocados from Southern California (for my salads), bananas from Guatemala (for my smoothies), and even a few dates from the Near East.

    If I could find blueberries that tasted like chili I might buy more of ’em. Certainly if I ever find ’em in my chili I’ll remove them.

    • #3
    • January 21, 2020, at 7:20 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  4. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    KentForrester: I eat blueberries from Chili (for my yogurt and cereal), oranges and avocados from Southern California (for my salads), bananas from Guatemala (for my smoothies), and even a few dates from the Near East.

    If I could find blueberries that tasted like chili I might buy more of ’em. Certainly if I ever find ’em in my chili I’ll remove them.

    Now I feel bad about myself. I hope you’re happy! I’ll go back and correct that problem. I’m not sure that will help my mood, though. 

    • #4
    • January 21, 2020, at 7:24 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  5. Tex929rr Coolidge

    Concur. I often tell people that merely the ability to take a hot shower whenever we feel like it makes us privileged compared to most humans who ever walked the earth.

    • #5
    • January 21, 2020, at 7:30 AM PST
    • 14 likes
  6. Slow on the uptake Thatcher

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    KentForrester: I eat blueberries from Chili (for my yogurt and cereal), oranges and avocados from Southern California (for my salads), bananas from Guatemala (for my smoothies), and even a few dates from the Near East.

    If I could find blueberries that tasted like chili I might buy more of ’em. Certainly if I ever find ’em in my chili I’ll remove them.

    Now I feel bad about myself. I hope you’re happy! I’ll go back and correct that problem. I’m not sure that will help my mood, though.

    So sorry. I thought to make you laugh. Now I’m looking for sackcloth, dust & ashes.

    • #6
    • January 21, 2020, at 7:36 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. The Reticulator Member

    Which life was more exciting? 

    • #7
    • January 21, 2020, at 7:45 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    KentForrester: I eat blueberries from Chili (for my yogurt and cereal), oranges and avocados from Southern California (for my salads), bananas from Guatemala (for my smoothies), and even a few dates from the Near East.

    If I could find blueberries that tasted like chili I might buy more of ’em. Certainly if I ever find ’em in my chili I’ll remove them.

    Now I feel bad about myself. I hope you’re happy! I’ll go back and correct that problem. I’m not sure that will help my mood, though.

    So sorry. I thought to make you laugh. Now I’m looking for sackcloth, dust & ashes.

    You can buy them on Amazon.

    • #8
    • January 21, 2020, at 7:47 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  9. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Materially, our lives are better than ever before. Morally, modern life is more complicates than ever before. 

    Through nearly all of human history, social roles were generally inherited. Your father’s profession was your profession. Or else you were apprenticed in a trade before you were a man. Women also repeated the life tracks of their mothers and were assigned by their parents. 

    Centuries ago, the notion that every citizen should be informed about politics and directing policies would have been absurd. Citizens focused on their own lives and neighborhoods. 

    People didn’t need to personally begin every ethical decision from scratch because they acknowledged moral guides, like priests and rabbis with millenia of developed wisdom. Radical indepedence comes with radical responsibility. 

    Technology is power. Modern Westerners are incredibly powerful, from being able to communicate instantly with foreign persons and communities to being able to drive fast but potentially deadly machines. With power comes responsibilities. 

    The interplay of cultures from all around the world means people are regularly challenged to judge their own cultures and adopt their preferred customs as never before. That was once a challenge reserved for capitol cities, and that was before multiculturalism. 

    We have access to countless foods, products, and services. So, unlike most peoples who just consumed as everybody else did and had for generations, we must constantly make judgments about the things we buy and use amid conflicting information. 

    Despite the omnipotence of rulers in previous centuries, surveillance of citizens and interaction with them was much less common and more difficult for government. Now all of life is “regulated” and tracked. 

    Basically, modern Westerners must make more decisions with more conflicting information and more expectations than most humans in history. When a child becomes an adult, freedom (opportunity) comes with unavoidable challenges and responsibilities. The more citizens are empowered, the more they are challenged to utilize that power in productive ways, hopefully not destroying themselves with it.

    • #9
    • January 21, 2020, at 7:56 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  10. The Reticulator Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Which life was more exciting?

    It was back when I was reading a lot of C.S. Lewis that I got to wondering why academics have such boring biographies. Lewis sometimes wrote about adventure and excitement, but his personal biography is not terribly interesting, though not as boring as his professional biography. (I’ve listened to a lot of boring biographies of academics as they were being introduced to their lecture hall audiences. Their lectures were often fascinating, but their biographies were boring.) And that made me think about how the trend in my own family history, as far back as I know it, has been for more boring biographies with each succeeding generation.

    • #10
    • January 21, 2020, at 8:13 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  11. Stad Thatcher

    KentForrester: We should reserve a portion of our nightly prayer to thank God that we were born into this time, this place.

    Amen to that!

    • #11
    • January 21, 2020, at 8:34 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    yep. Shame on those that choose not to learn history and be thankful for our riches.

    • #12
    • January 21, 2020, at 8:38 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  13. David Foster Member
    David Foster Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    It was back when I was reading a lot of C.S. Lewis that I got to wondering why academics have such boring biographies. Lewis sometimes wrote about adventure and excitement, but his personal biography is not terribly interesting, though not as boring as his professional biography

    Antoine de St-Exupery had some relevant thoughts:

    There is a density of being in a Dominican at prayer. He is never so much alive as when prostrate and motionless before his God. In Pasteur, holding his breath over the microscope, there is a density of being. Pasteur is never more alive than in that moment of scrutiny. At that moment he is moving forward. He is hurrying. He is advancing in seven-league boots, exploring distance despite his immobility. Cezanne, mute and motionless before his sketch, is an inestimable presence. He is never more alive than when silent, when feeling and pondering. At that moment his canvas becomes for him something wider than the seas.

     

    • #13
    • January 21, 2020, at 8:56 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  14. Front Seat Cat Member

    Gratitude in your last line is a good lesson and reminder, not just in the age of entitlement, but that gratitude can’t co-exist with despair. Thank you for that reminder, especially on this politically cloudy day.

    • #14
    • January 21, 2020, at 8:57 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  15. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    KentForrester: I eat blueberries from Chili (for my yogurt and cereal), oranges and avocados from Southern California (for my salads), bananas from Guatemala (for my smoothies), and even a few dates from the Near East.

    If I could find blueberries that tasted like chili I might buy more of ’em. Certainly if I ever find ’em in my chili I’ll remove them.

    Now I feel bad about myself. I hope you’re happy! I’ll go back and correct that problem. I’m not sure that will help my mood, though.

    So sorry. I thought to make you laugh. Now I’m looking for sackcloth, dust & ashes.

    You can buy them on Amazon.

    Whereas your average Medieval peasant who needed sackcloth, dust & ashes had to walk miles to a village large enough to have a Bed Bath & Beyond. 

    • #15
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:15 AM PST
    • 12 likes
  16. Bethany Mandel Editor

    This is something I think about often, and I love this suggestion about adding it to our daily prayers. 

    • #16
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:16 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  17. JustmeinAZ Member

    I always say I’ve won life’s lottery to be born in this country.

    • #17
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:17 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  18. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A very interesting, and entertaining, original post and comments. Thank you, everyone.

    (This is the sort of thing I log onto Ricochet for; I haven’t found it anywhere else.)

    • #18
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:23 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  19. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    It is hard to be grateful when there is so much to be grateful for, but dyspepsia and apathy are among the wages of the glutton. 

    • #19
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:30 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  20. The Reticulator Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    KentForrester: I eat blueberries from Chili (for my yogurt and cereal), oranges and avocados from Southern California (for my salads), bananas from Guatemala (for my smoothies), and even a few dates from the Near East.

    If I could find blueberries that tasted like chili I might buy more of ’em. Certainly if I ever find ’em in my chili I’ll remove them.

    Now I feel bad about myself. I hope you’re happy! I’ll go back and correct that problem. I’m not sure that will help my mood, though.

    So sorry. I thought to make you laugh. Now I’m looking for sackcloth, dust & ashes.

    (Edit: Sorry for repeating what had already been said in this thread.)

    You can buy them on Amazon.

    Whereas your average Medieval peasant who needed sackcloth, dust & ashes had to walk miles to a village large enough to have a Bed Bath & Beyond.

    Now you can buy your gunny sacks on Amazon. Although I don’t recall actually having to pay for them when I was a kid. They just seemed to be around.

    • #20
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:30 AM PST
    • 1 like
  21. Arahant Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Which life was more exciting?

    It was back when I was reading a lot of C.S. Lewis that I got to wondering why academics have such boring biographies. Lewis sometimes wrote about adventure and excitement, but his personal biography is not terribly interesting, though not as boring as his professional biography. (I’ve listened to a lot of boring biographies of academics as they were being introduced to their lecture hall audiences. Their lectures were often fascinating, but their biographies were boring.) And that made me think about how the trend in my own family history, as far back as I know it, has been for more boring biographies with each succeeding generation.

    It depends who is writing the biography and for what purpose. I could have the most exciting or the most boring biography in the world.

    Boring:

    He spent most of his time in front of a computer monitor and keyboard. He generally only left the house a few times per week. On Sundays, he would go to church. On Mondays, he would usually have a health-related appointment, and so go out to dinner with his wife after. He lived a quiet life and wrote poetry and books, both fiction and non-fiction.

    Not so boring:

    He created worlds, accompanying the characters he created on grand adventures which he documented for others to read. He painted pictures in poetry to give the blind sight and to share the tears and joys of the world with all.

    • #21
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:31 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  22. Arahant Member

    I agree, Kent. We need to know how lucky we are and how well off we are. We are a rich people. We also need to be grateful and recognize the source of our blessings.

    • #22
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:35 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  23. Django Member

    Those people who say I wish I’d lived when … should remember what Gore Vidal said, “I wouldn’t care to live at any time prior to the perfection of anesthesia.”

    • #23
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:35 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  24. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    TBA (View Comment):

    It is hard to be grateful when there is so much to be grateful for, but dyspepsia and apathy are among the wages of the glutton.

    I know of which you speak. 

    • #24
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:37 AM PST
    • 1 like
  25. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    Django (View Comment):

    Those people who say I wish I’d lived when … should remember what Gore Vidal said, “I wouldn’t care to live at any time prior to the perfection of anesthesia.”

    Exactly so. I almost included a section on anesthesia, but I was striving for brevity in this post. Anesthesia is a godsend. It’s hard to imagine having your limb sawed off or your body cavity opened up without anesthesia. Liquor and a piece of rawhide to grip in your teeth just doesn’t do it.

    • #25
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:40 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  26. OldPhil Coolidge

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    Concur. I often tell people that merely the ability to take a hot shower whenever we feel like it makes us privileged compared to most humans who ever walked the earth.

    Unless you’re in California and want to do your laundry, I’m hearing.

    • #26
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:42 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  27. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I agree, Kent. We need to know how lucky we are and how well off we are. We are a rich people. We also need to be grateful and recognize the source of our blessings.

    Thanks for your comment, Arahant. I can always count on you for a comment or help with navigating the Ricochet site. I still don’t know how to get to the place where one signs up for a quote post. I can only get there when a hot spot shows up. 

    • #27
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:44 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  28. Django Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Django (View Comment):

    Those people who say I wish I’d lived when … should remember what Gore Vidal said, “I wouldn’t care to live at any time prior to the perfection of anesthesia.”

    Exactly so. I almost included a section on anesthesia, but I was striving for brevity in this post. Anesthesia is a godsend. It’s hard to imagine having your limb sawed off or your body cavity opened up without anesthesia. Liquor and a piece of rawhide to grip in your teeth just doesn’t do it.

    Two words: surgical restraints.

    • #28
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:45 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  29. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    A very interesting, and entertaining, original post and comments. Thank you, everyone.

    (This is the sort of thing I log onto Ricochet for; I haven’t found it anywhere else.)

    Thanks, Jim. Me too. (That is, other people’s posts and comments.)

    • #29
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:46 AM PST
    • 1 like
  30. OldPhil Coolidge

    Django (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Django (View Comment):

    Those people who say I wish I’d lived when … should remember what Gore Vidal said, “I wouldn’t care to live at any time prior to the perfection of anesthesia.”

    Exactly so. I almost included a section on anesthesia, but I was striving for brevity in this post. Anesthesia is a godsend. It’s hard to imagine having your limb sawed off or your body cavity opened up without anesthesia. Liquor and a piece of rawhide to grip in your teeth just doesn’t do it.

    Two words: surgical restraints.

    I’m reading a book about the battle of New Orleans: The Greatest Fury, by William C. Davis. There’s a vignette where a British surgeon is amputating an American prisoner’s leg, and hands a fiddle to a second prisoner so he can play loudly and distract the patient. The fiddler breaks into “Yankee Doodle,” and the surgeon breaks the fiddle over the second prisoner’s head.

    • #30
    • January 21, 2020, at 9:52 AM PST
    • 13 likes