“Buried how long?”
The answer was always the same. “Almost eighteen years.”
“You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?”
“You knew that you were recalled to life?”
“They tell me so.”
“I hope you care to live?”
“I can’t say.” (11)
If you don’t like book spoilers, you might say, “Fiddle-dee-dee,” and skip this post. It includes a spoiler for A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens—at least the first part of the book.
Last chance to depart before I launch into the rest of the post. . . .
If you’re still here, there’s a method to my madness, so please bear with me.
In Dickens’s saga of life before and during the French Revolution, the lines you read at the beginning of the post are an imagined conversation between Mr. Jarvis Lorry, an English banker, and Monsieur Manette, a former prisoner of the Bastille. But at this point in the narrative, this bit of dialogue is very mysterious. Recalled to life? What could that mean? Abandoned all hope? Isn’t that reminiscent of a sign hanging on the gate of hell in Inferno, the first part of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri? The allusion to the sign is appropriate, given the circumstances of this story.
Imagine being an innocent person placed in a dank prison and completely forgotten about for eighteen years. That was Monsieur Manette’s plight. Now imagine being freed from prison and reminded that your life isn’t as limited and dark and miserable as evil could shape it. That’s what being “recalled to life” means in this book. Mr. Lorry’s task was to remind Monsieur Manette of what life he still had with a daughter who’d believed him dead.
Monsieur Manette—Doctor Manette, actually—was a broken man, dashed on the rocks of discouragement due to the cover up of a crime which led to his long imprisonment. He’d even forgotten the sound of his own name. But after his release from prison, his life began to change once he reconnected with his family and his identity.
I won’t get into all of the ins and outs of the terrible crime and how Dr. Manette was caught up in the evil of others’ making. You can discover those as you read the book. But the phrase recalled to life resonated with me, hence this post.
Every day, when we open our eyes at the start of the day, we’re recalled to life. For some of us, maybe we don’t want to be recalled to the same old circumstances—the same old limited life. If you’re like me (and I hope you aren’t), you tend to focus on the negative—what others (including yourself) have told you might be “true” of your life: that you’re a failure who will never accomplish anything worthwhile. That you’ll always be broke or tired or miserable or hungry or thwarted or second-best or rejected or washed-up or ____________ (fill in the blank with whatever that little voice tells you; you know the one). Sentiments like that are as much a prison as the Bastille.
Maybe like me—like Dr. Manette—you need to be recalled to life—to the truths that bring life to you. What’s true about you?
You’ve got an imagination.
You’re one of a kind.
You’re a masterpiece.
You’ve got a second chance or a third or a fourth.
You’ve got skills.
You’ve got a story to tell.
You’re not hopeless.
You’re not defeated.
Right? Now go out and live that truth. Live like someone recalled to life. Because you are.
Like Mr. Lorry, I ask, “I hope you care to live?”
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Bantam Classic Edition, 1981. First published in 1859.
Gerbera daisy from bhg.com.