Yeats Confuses Me

I think it’s true that as a people, we have come to an unprecedented time of opportunity. What we could accomplish because of the advances in so many things seems to be near limitless. Yet in many ways, it also seems we are devolving in a way. And today I was thinking of that old Yeats poem, The Second Coming, written just after WWI. I think it is also surprisingly timely today. But it’s also quite confusing. No one ever said Yeats was the arbiter of truth or clarity about life, but his work does–at least in my instance–make a brother think.

Yeats

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 convention, while the worst

are full of passionate intensity…

This poem says much about war, and the chaos it brings. In many ways now, we as a people are at war. “Anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

And I think about who the enemy is in this war. Many these days would say it was the President. Yet if one follows in and believes scripture, and in the sovereignty of Jesus, we must also consider what scripture says about the state of things. I don’t know that this president, or any president, is named.

From Ephesians 2: 1-3–

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Like the rest of mankind. To me that suggests none of us are blameless, whether donkey or elephant, progressive or conservative.

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.

If it feels good, do it. If it’s right to you, how can it  be wrong? Must all things hold to the same order?

What about the ceremony of innocence being drowned? I don’t know about there being a ceremony of innocence. In other words, a ceremony or graduation which at the culmination declares us innocent. Why would we need a declaration of innocence? Aren’t we innocent until proven guilty?

Sure, in a court of law. Except that is not what this is. It’s a world where to many, life has no sanctity, no matter the color of skin, or the tenets one holds to. No matter the age, or gestational status of a person.

In the immortal words of the poet and prophet Ice T, on the latest Body Count album, “no lives matter.”

And I think that’s where we are today. Culture and many beliefs would dictate that life is not significant. To some it seems like climbing to some height and raining bullets onto a group of people–or into a group of people–is the thing to do to ensure that your life means something in the end, even if what it means is that you’ve taken life as part of your own life, and ensuring that you are noted, and a part of history.

No lives matter.

Except they really do. I believe that. Even with the turmoil my life has occasionally been, I believe it. Even with the second law of thermodynamics (entropy), I believe it. Even with the pontifications of William Butler Yeats (things fall apart, the centre cannot hold) I believe it.

I believe it because of Psalm 22, and the depiction of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53.

I believe it because of the 40 or so words of the apostle Paul to the Galatians:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20, ESV

Consider also Psalm 139:16: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Yet with all that, murder is still murder. And each of our lives matter. We can make something of them. We can matter, too, even if it is only to God. So, yes, Mr. Yeats. Things do fall apart. But I disagree with you on whether or not the center can hold.

I say it can, if we make Christ the center. If we hold life as sacred–created by God, to be taken by God. Not by a madman or madmen, to whom a human life is nothing. That person has their fame now, their infamy.

And an empty eternity to think about it.

 

 

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Waken in Me a Gratitude for My Life

O God, complete the work you have begun in me.
Release through me
a flow of mercy and gentleness that will bring
water where there is desert,
healing where there is hurt,
peace where there is violence,
beauty where there is ugliness,
justice where there is brokenness,
beginnings where there are dead ends.
Waken in me
gratitude for my life,
love for every living thing,
joy in what is human and holy,
praise for you.
Renew my faith that you are God
beyond my grasp
but within my reach;
past my knowing
but within my searching;
disturber of the assured,
assurer of the disturbed;
destroyer of illusions,
creator of dreams;
source of silence and music,
sex and solitude,
light and darkness,
death and life.
O keeper of promises,
composer of Grace,
grant me
glee in my blood,
prayer in my heart,
trust at my core,
songs for my journey,
and a sense of your kingdom.

—Ted Loder

How Shall I pray?

How shall I pray?

Are tears prayers, Lord?

Are screams prayers,

        Or groans

                      Or sighs

                                  Or curses?

Can trembling hands be lifted to you,

        Or clenched fists

                                Or the cold sweat that trickled down my back

                                             Or the cramps that knot my stomach?

Will you accept my prayers, Lord,

      My real prayers,

                      rooted in the muck and mud and rock of my life,

and not just the pretty, cut-flower, gracefully arranged

 bouquet of words?

Will you accept me, Lord, as I really am,

                                                      messed up mixture of glory and grime?

Defense of Fort McHenry

O! say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, 
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming, 
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, 
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming? 
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, 
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there — 
O! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave 
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave? 

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep, 
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes, 
What is that which the breeze o’er the towering steep, 
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? 
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam, 
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream — 
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave 
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave. 

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore 
That the havock of war and the battle’s confusion 
A home and a country should leave us no more? 
Their blood has wash’d out their foul foot-steps’ pollution,
No refuge could save the hireling and slave, 
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave; 
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave 
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave. 

O! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand 
Between their lov’d home, and the war’s desolation, 
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land 
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation! 
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, 
And this be our motto — “In God is our trust!” 
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave 
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

                          – Francis Scott Key

Sonnet 29

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee—and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
   For thy sweet love rememb’red such wealth brings
   That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

                          –William Shakespeare

What Can I Believe?

O God, I am so fragile:

         my dreams get broken,

         my relationships get broken,

         my heart gets broken,

         My body gets broken.

What can I believe,

          except that you will not despise a broken heart,

          that old and broken people shall yet dream dreams,

          and that the lame shall leap for joy,

                 the blind see,

                       the deaf hear.

What can I believe,

         except what Jesus taught:

         that only what is first broken, like bread,

                 can be shared;

          that only what is broken

                  is open to your entry;

          that old wineskins must be ripped open and replaced

                  if the wine of new life is to expand.

So I believe, Lord;

           help my unbelief

                   that I may have courage to keep trying

                           when I am tired,

                   and to keep wanting passionately

                            when I am found wanting.

O God, I am so frail:

       my life spins like a top,

             bounced about by the clumsy hands

                     of demands beyond my doing,

       fanned by furies

              at a pace but half a step from hysteria,

                     so much to do,

                            my days so few and fast-spent,

                                   and I mostly unable to recall

                                          what I am rushing after.

What can I believe,

       except that beyond the limits

               of my little prayers and careful creeds,

        I am not meant for dust and darkness,

                but for dancing life and silver starlight.

Help my unbelief

        that I may have courage

                to dare to love the enemies

                       I have the integrity to make;

                to care for little else

                       save my brothers and sisters of the human family;

                to take time to truly be with them,

                       take time to see,

                                take time to speak,

                                         take time to learn with them

                                                  before time takes us;

                and to fear failure and death less

                       than the faithlesness

                               of not embracing love’s risks.

God, I am so frantic:

       somehow I’ve lost my gentleness

                in a flood of ambition,

       lost my sense of wonder

                in a maze of videos and computers,

       lost my integrity

                in a shuffle of commercial disguises,

       lost my gratitude

                in a swarm of criticisms and complaints,

        lost my innocence

                in a sea of betrayals and compromises.

What can I believe,

       except that the touch of your mercy

               will ease the anguish of my memory;

       that the tug of your spirit

                will empower me to help carry now the burdens

                        I have loaded on the lives of others;

        that the example of Jesus

                will inspire me to find again my humanity.

So, I believe, Lord;

help my unbelief

        that I may have courage

               to cut free from what I have been

         and gamble on what I can be,

               and on what you

                     might laughingly do

                             with trembling me

                                     for your incredible world.

                                                                                       –Ted Loder