This morning, I found myself inexplicably fatigued. I mean, wiped out. The muscles in my back were sore, not in that good "I just had a workout" way, but in a "toxic stuff is marching through my body" way.
I still don't know if I'm contracting the flu or not. I'm hoping this delayed onset means: a) I'm not getting it, and there's some other reason for my toxic symptoms; or b) my heroic body is fighting it off, my white blood cells rushing over mountainous organs and muscles like Gandalf's army beating down legions of orcs at the end of Lord of the Rings. :-)
I though I would cheer up by reminding myself of how good we have it, in 2009. Whenever the news media attempts to portray the challenges of our time as the most difficult of any in history, I scoff.
Compare our panic over the swine flu to a real pandemic.
Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year, published in 1722, is a fictionalized account of the Great Plague in London in 1666. It reads like a nonfiction work, however, as Defoe cites official statistics and reports the events of the plague year in a detached, objective fashion.
I can't even quote many of his narrator's most interesting descriptions of London's citizens as the plague progressed. This is, after all, a civilized blog and I want you to feel safe coming here. But Defoe's novel is a great historical read, and you can download it for free at Project Gutenberg. Just Google it and download the plaintext version. Then have fun skimming!
Here's a fairly tame morsel:
Many consciences were awakened; many hard hearts
melted into tears; many a penitent confession was made of crimes long
concealed. It would wound the soul of any Christian to have heard the
dying groans of many a despairing creature, and none durst come near to
comfort them. Many a robbery, many a murder, was then confessed aloud,
and nobody surviving to record the accounts of it. People might be
heard, even into the streets as we passed along, calling upon God for
mercy through Jesus Christ, and saying, 'I have been a thief, 'I have
been an adulterer', 'I have been a murderer', and the like, and none
durst stop to make the least inquiry into such things or to administer
comfort to the poor creatures that in the anguish both of soul and body
thus cried out.
Some of the ministers did visit the sick at first
and for a little while, but it was not to be done. It would have been
present death to have gone into some houses. The very buriers of the
dead, who were the hardenedest creatures in town, were sometimes beaten
back and so terrified that they durst not go into houses where the whole
families were swept away together, and where the circumstances were more
particularly horrible, as some were...
So, would reading Journal of the Plague Year cheer you up, or am I the only odd bird who finds comfort in reminders that other times in history were far worse than our own?
Or can you recommend other pieces of historical writing that remind you how comfortable life is in 2009?