Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Second Coming

In 1919 William Butler Yeats wrote a rather dark poem that matched the mood of the time subsequent to the end of World War I. Yes, there was celebration of the end of the war but there was also a sense that something had changed. A darkness had crept into the world.
The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?1
This poem continues to be quoted and referenced and still has great relevance today. In 1996 Rolling Stone reporter Will Dana stated, “We used to think the center couldn’t hold,” referring to Yeat’s poem, “All of a sudden, there doesn’t seem to be a center at all.” We live in a “centreless” world. Such is the cultural experience of living in a world stipulated without any reference to the transcendent.2

This is what Nietzsche anticipated in 1882, in his book, The Gay Science, when he wrote,
“Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon?” Nietzsche anticipated that with the decline of Christianity it will seem for a time as if all things had become weightless or without center. Nietzsche continues, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives—who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent?”3
Must the prophetic words of Nietzche continue to unfold? Or, is there is a Way back to God? Let those who have ears and eyes, hear and see.

1 William Butler Yeats (1865-1939); written in 1919. http://www.potw.org/archive/potw351.html
2 As quoted in http://www.cardus.ca/blog/2013/05/cultural-ptsd ; "Cultural PTSD" in Comment Magazine,  May 31, 2013.
3 As quoted in http://www.cardus.ca/blog/2013/05/cultural-ptsd ; "Cultural PTSD" in Comment Magazine,  May 31, 2013.

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