Doing things differently since 1984

The ‘Dark’ Ages

I’ve always been fascinated by the Dark Ages.  I think it may have something to do with my general tendency to go for opposite-of-everyone-else…. Why join the host of millions enamored by the Roman Empire or World War II when there are 700 years of generally unpopular history to enjoy??

I think it’s a misunderstood time period affected by some bad PR… the “Dark Ages” sounds like something out of a fantasy novel where evil forces reigned supreme.   Starting with Petrarch, historians have turned their noses up at it because it’s too not-Roman, too Catholic, too uneducated, too violent, or just generally too hard to study.

But here is what I find an interesting thought: Would it have actually been as miserable a time to live in as people say?  What if you brought an average person out of that time period and brought them to the 21st century (and gave them enough time to get used to it).  Would they want to stay, or go back?

These Dark Agers from Just Visiting didn't seem to think their time period was so bad

I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy our modern days.  I’m a big fan of running toilets, hot-n-ready pizzas, equal rights, education, the internet, multi-bedroom houses, modern medicine, and central air conditioning.  I can’t imagine life without them.   

But would someone from the Dark Ages consider it a fair trade to have all those great things but also a breakdown in families, communities, and beliefs; a society obsessed with money, possessions, food, and fashion; a pace of life hastened to a dizzying speed?  Would he or she end up missing working with their hands, travelling with their feet, and being surrounded by plants and animals?  Would that person consider the Dark Ages to be more dangerous, with its wars, pestilence, and oppression, or would they consider the 21st century to be more dangerous, with its rampant crime, nuclear and biological warfare, and bombs that can come out of nowhere?

It may sound like I’m trying to ask some leading questions, but really, I don’t know what someone from the Dark Ages would think.  As I already said, I can’t even imagine what life was like back then – which means I can’t even really theorize it.  I just think it’s a little short-sighted to slate 700 years of Europe’s history as “dark” and miserable simply because they lacked the literacy, democracy, and engineering that we have today.

If I correctly recall from 8th grade physics, Newton’s third law was that every action has an opposite and equal reaction.  You push one way, you’re going to get a push back, until something gives.  If you extend this idea beyond physical objects, it means change can only happen with compromise.  Sure, freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, but because those reins were let loose, our ears get assaulted daily with rude, obnoxious, disgraceful, disrespectful, demoralizing rubbish – and our kids’ ears are even keener than our own.

This blogger wants to shift the concept of the Plague Doctor out of the Dark Ages - I think it's cool.

So maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to knock the Dark Ages.  Sure, they had war, famine, pestilence, and death, but so did the 1930’s.  Considering the Apocalypse didn’t actually happen at either one of those times, that means those Four Horseman are still waiting for something worse.

9 comments on “The ‘Dark’ Ages

  1. pestarzt
    February 28, 2012

    Thanks for tagging my blog in this! I enjoy your blogs.

  2. aFrankAngle
    February 29, 2012

    The next to the last paragraph is powerful. Well said.

  3. Pingback: Considering the Dark Ages | From the Garden into the City

  4. jameswharris
    March 16, 2012

    I read all up and down the timeline, but not much from the so called Dark Ages, but occasionally I read books that touch upon it. I just finished The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, which is about the rediscovery of the Roman book On the Nature of Things in 1417, and how it survived the Dark Ages. And recently I got into music of Carmina Burana, from the 11th and 12th century. I don’t think I’d like time travel much earlier than maybe 2005 – I love the digital world.

    • abtwixt
      March 16, 2012

      There’s no shame in that, James – you’re in the majority 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  5. shirleymclain930
    March 28, 2012

    Your blog certainly makes sense to me. I want the best of both times. Give me the close family contact, electricity and my gadgets and I’ll be happy back in the dark ages, I think. But again who knows. I think my wants just made it not so dark. You did a great job.

  6. Benjamin Wendell
    March 28, 2012

    Stick around. With global warming, lab altered bird flu, and most of western civilization on the brink of bankruptcy, to name just a few, we might get another shot at the dark ages.

    • abtwixt
      March 29, 2012

      Ha ha, too true! In which case, it can be somewhat comforting to think that such a fate might still have its perks…. 😉 Thanks for the read!

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This entry was posted on February 28, 2012 by in History, Philosophy, Question the Norm and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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