Monday, July 11, 2016

Anarchy is Loosed Upon the World

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.
William Butler Yeats, 1919

We watch the news with horror.  We can't keep up with the tragedy.  It's too much, too much.  Too much pain; too much devastation.

The ceremony of innocence is drowned.

We can't change our profile pictures fast enough before the next tragedy occurs.  Nazarite?  Paris?  Orlando?  Baghdad?  Istanbul?  Gorilla?  Black lives matter?  or is it Blue lives?  There are two many things to care about; too many things that tear at our hearts and give us whiplash from trying so hard to keep up.  Sometimes it's easier to just pull the covers over our heads.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed.

And all of those things don't even scratch the surface of the problems within the four walls of our own personal universe--a child's bad choices, money that won't stretch, conflicts between two that share the same space, that strange lump, that broken washing machine--or those problems within the confines of our own minds--that secret sin, that devastating fear, that sense of failure that hangs on like a bad cough.

It's hard enough facing the problems in our own small spaces; it seems too much to face the problems out there.  Especially when the problems out there start creeping into our own space like termites that eat through the walls.

Yet, there is nothing new under the sun.  Yeats' poem was written after World War I--before Hitler murdered six million, before the atomic bombs, before Stalin starved seven million, before Pol Pot slaughtered two million, before Rwandans axed one million of their neighbors, before, before, before.

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.  And yet after, it only got worse.

There is nothing new under the sun.  But for two centuries, some Americans--some--were given the gift of a life that was different than the trajectory of history.  A life that really was peaceful and prosperous and free.  The Great American experiment worked for a lot of people, for a long time.  But for those of us who grew up in that American Dream, who rode our bikes with abandon down our streets, where violence, racism, and poverty were "out there" for other people--not for us--that Dream seemed as permanent as the sturdy oak trees in our front yards.  There was no reason to question whether it would last.

What we didn't realize, growing up in that Dream World, is how unique our experience was--in the world, in history, even in much of America.  Our history classes focused on "western civilization"...which seemed to find its pinnacle in the life we were living right now.  We had reached the top, and there was no reason to believe that we would fall from it.

Or so we thought.

Really though, has the world actually gotten worse?  Or just our world?  
I don't think the world is getting worse.  I just think my American Dream generation is coming to grips with the reality of life.  That blip on the screen that was the American Dream was really just an illusion, for a time covering up the deeper, sinister parts of human our society, and in ourselves.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.

And here we are now.  Facing terribly disturbing leadership in our own country, facing deep fissures in our unity that will no longer allow to be plastered over, facing the loss of our religious freedom, facing dire financial collapse, facing outside threats to our safety like circling hyenas.

Facing what the rest of the world has always faced.  We can watch a lot of sitcoms; we can go on happy vacations; we can eat lots of good food; we can enjoy the best of America, but we can no longer tell ourselves that everything will be okay.

How do we then live?

We swallow the red pill and see the Matrix for what it really is.  We go backstage at Disneyland and see where they dump the trash.  Many, of course, have lived there all along.  We acknowledge how living only in our Dream World has hurt them; how we have failed to listen to their pleas.  We repent of our trust in that world to bring us happiness.  

There is still a way to find joy, of course.  We need not live our lives under a storm cloud.  Babies are born and marriages are celebrated even in times of war.  Sunsets fill our souls and the stars give us strength.  Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion is the best line in "Steel Magnolias."  Brokenhearted joy is what John Piper calls it.  We bravely face the wretchedness in ourselves and in our society--even while we watch it crumble--but we remember that we hold the true source of Hope.  

The Christian life was meant to be lived in the widening gyre.  It's what we were created for.  It's what we are called to do.  It's what Jesus meant when he said to pick up our cross and follow him, why he told us that his peace is not the same as what the world gives, why he said that the most important thing is to abide in him.  It's why he told us that we would have trouble in this world, but to take heart because he has overcome it.

Things fall apart, but we do hear the falconer.  As we are faced with this new reality, which really is just peeling back the veil and seeing reality as it has always been, let us remember that we do hear the falconer.

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