The Rector's Blog
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June 15, 2017, 2:37 PM

The Centre Cannot Hold


From the Rector

The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats

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: 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? 

We hear of something distressing and we make a leap to judgment.  Why is this so often the first thing we do? 

I probably don’t need to tell you of the all-too-predictable reactions to the shooting in Alexandria yesterday, where several [Congressional Republican] people playing baseball were injured.  Now, mind you, some reactions were a call to prayer – which is a start in the right direction – but others immediately went somewhere very different and very ugly based on political views. 

I don’t believe that shooting people is the answer to any of our political differences.

And I don’t think the answer lies in demonizing either the victims or the shooters, either.

Is it me, or does this seem to be happening with greater frequency?  Or is that just an “artifact” (as the statisticians call it) of greater access to the news cycle?  In other words, are there more shootings, or are the shootings just getting greater attention?

Because the media have long been accused of thinking “If it bleeds, it leads.”  The escalation in toxic language, I think, is real enough.  But it’s hard to tell.

More and more we are divided left and right; and the center shrinks.  Which brought me to William Butler Yeats’ poem, and the line “The centre cannot hold.” 

I’m no English major, but to my ear, the vision he describes of a terrifying power stirring in the darkness sounds very contemporary. 

I have the sense that, whatever our own political proclivities may be, we all feel to some extent threatened – by change, by the loss of what we hold dear, by the instability of economy and policy, and by general hostility in the national conversation – which is more of a shouting match with no one hearing, than a conversation.

What is to be done?  I quote a line from one of the Star Trek movies, in which the Chris Pine version of Captain Kirk says, “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.  I only know what I can do.”

That line speaks to me so much, I have it taped to my computer screen.

Just now, I would modify it somewhat:  “I don’t know what I can do; I only know what I’m supposed to do” – and that is:

             LOVE GOD.  LOVE NEIGHBOR. 

As we struggle to find a way toward sanity and respect and care again, this is the only counsel that I can offer – and there’s nothing wrong with repeating it frequently!

Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.  (Matthew 22:37-39, adapted)

Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.   (Matthew 5:44)

Christ be within us to keep us, beside us to guard, before us to lead, behind us to protect, beneath us to support, above us to bless.  Amen.         (New Zealand Prayer Book 186)


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