lyef & thymes

Monday, June 27, 2005

A new class of thinkers and dreamers

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center 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: somewhere in sands of the desert
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
Reel 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?

-- William Butler Yeats, January 1919

This poem is an indictment against trends of thought that were just beginning at this point in history, as Humanity watched the Great War destroy their sense of supremacy over everything. People had started to believe that the human mind was all-powerful in its ability to reason and solve any problem we may have. The first stanza refers to how far out our reason has gone, in a vortex, like a falcon in an ever widening circle, until we are so far from the middle that we cannot hear the voice of the falconer, until we cannot find our center.

And his warning that the center cannot hold is a warning that as the great thinkers go further and further out, those more common people who tend towards the center will suffer the most for it. In the final line Yeats seems to hearken back to the idea that things may get pretty bad, and then when we really need saving, we will in fact be saved.

This post isn't really about this poem, as much as it is about the center, modern life as affected (or not affected) by post-modern thought, and what I am seeing as a post-post-modern in a modern town.

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending two graduation ceremonies in my area. One was for the graduating students of St. Stephen High School, and the other for the graduates of Sir James Dunn Academy in St. Andrews, a neighboring town.
I attended secondary school in Toronto, which is a very post-modern, secular, tolerant, multi-cultural city. But in some ways (that I only discovered this weekend) the small towns I live in and around kick Toronto's butt.

To begin with, the towns host a week of events for graduates, really boosting the morale of the students, and filling them with a sense of accomplishment. The whole town comes out to a reception prior to their prom, where the kids are all dressed up and all the local folk ooh and ahh at the dresses and suits. Then there is a Baccalaureate service (that's a CHURCH service) that nearly all of the grads attend.

At the grad ceremonies there is always an Anglican minister present who begins the ceremony with prayer, and I was stunned as the whole auditorium bowed their heads and donned pious expressions. The prayer ended in "and we ask this in the name of Jesus who is the Christ". I tell you I was floored. This kind of thing is strictly forbidden in Canada. Nationwide there is a by-law banning prayer from any type of platform in schools, but here it was, an integral part of the most important event of the school year.

In Sir James Dunn Academy there were only 35 graduates, due to the small size of the town it is in. These students had been at this school since grade 6, and every one of them was a personal success story for the teachers. 100% of the students at this school graduate, and they have such a strong relationship with their teachers that most of the grads received a hug from one teacher or another at some point. Again, this is forbidden in our schools, but here it was fine. You might think these schools just let these things slip in and don't tell anyone, but the minister of Education was present at each of these ceremonies, and he sure didn't seem to mind.

The last thing that I found really remarkable was the chit-chat during the ceremonies. Old ladies would remark "oh doesn't she look just like her mother!" or "glad that one turned himself around at the end." There is a strong connectedness in the place I live now. And history. Each person holds some sort of place in the bigger story that is going on around them. They are their parents kids, and their legacy is intertwined with everyone else's.

It is a post-post-modern world, where most people are doing their best to cling to their own chunk of stability with the secret knowledge that the centre of it all cannot hold. But somehow there are still those who cling to what few things were really great about modernity. Namely relational community, faith in the ability of "a higher power" to keep this all together, and in the story we are telling with our lives.

When asked how this world, and how our human story is going to pan out, how this is all going to end, I think the answer is simple. Jesus is going to return to save us. I observe trends in history, philosophy, culture, and religion, and I don't see the world vastly improving itself as people believed it was in the scientific revolution. I see that we desperately need saving, and the good news is that the God who made us, and loves us, happens to be in the saving business.


At 12:30 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow good thoughts Jako Murph!

Yeah I'm more and more seeing that people arbitrarily devalue things because they happen to be old. What people don't understand is that when the old returns after a time, it is not old at all; it is a greater new, a brighter new, a more refreshing new, simply because it wasn't in the recent consciousness, and has now become new for a new generation.

"...twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last..."

"come round at last"-hmm-"come round".

In the small towns, a sense of community is easy to embed and cultivate, not because there are less people, but because they were never sucked into a pluralist view of the Universe, a relative view of truth. We need this unity under God in the big cities, but naturally on a much larger scale. We need a form of the old that has never come before. We need to be the post-post-post-modern Church; the End-Times Church: united, strong, and with our eyes on the Bridegroom.


At 10:28 p.m., Blogger Jonathan said...

What is this Jacob now?

I loved this post man. I read it right after you wrote it, but didn't say anything. Because I'm like that.

But seriously. Excellent writing.

At 12:43 p.m., Blogger Sue said...

Thank you for a post so filled with hope and excitement for that future day. Really Great!


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