What rough beast slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?
I attended a meeting of the Selectmen in town last night that left me feeling a little frustrated. There was an issue that had been brought up by a few very vocal individuals and a 3 hour meeting was ‘necessary’ to arrive at a sub-par decision that left no one too angry (ok maybe some are pretty angry) and no one completely satisfied.
It reminded me of W.B. Yeats poem “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 Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the 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?
The line that triggered my memory was:
” The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. ”
Nobody last night was best or worst but the voice of reason was muffled and the less reasonable were certainly full of passionate intensity, or so it seemed to me.
Yeats was referring to the times we live in. The poem was written after WW I — a time that presaged a dreadful century with events that many feel indicates we are at the end of days. Similar events continue this century.
The rough beast is within the heart of the humans on earth with our animal and spiritual natures. We can and must turn to our better nature and get the process of government and civilization; of technology and information; of spirituality and self interest in perspective and under control or we will continue to spiral to an unfortunate future.
Yeats ended the poem with a question. I can answer it by quoting Pogo — a brilliant political cartoon of the mid twentieth century:
“We have met the enemy and he is us!”