I'm a bit of a news junkie. I tend to reach instinctively for the news and politics feed, and can find myself pawing through news sites like a starving raccoon. However, I can see that the news as a mode is hardly a reliable index of the human condition. Surely the world can't be that utterly full of scoundrels, scandals, failings, falterings, corruptions, and defections? It's somewhat comforting to think that even if the news is bad, the badness is not really new. If the poets and the ancients are a more reliable guide, it seems we're not living in an age of particular evil, ushered in by 9/11, just more of the same afflictions humans have always suffered. Shakespeare's 66th sonnet sounds as though he's just switched off CNN in disgust.
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And guilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly doctor-like controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
And further back, the writer of Ecclesiastes gets at the cussedness of human life beautifully:
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Just by chance, that verse is found at 9:11.