A personal response to the news of the world with the help of W.B. Yeats

I am a bit of a new junkie. I guess it’s because I think avoiding the news is mere escapism. I want to know the truth about what is going on. That’s why it is such a serious issue with me when the news media deliberately lies to push the agenda of some entity that is paying them. But by reading a variety of news sources I can still get a general idea of what is going on. The general idea I get is that this world is saturated with heartbreak, tragedy, and mostly sadness, pure sadness. The news is an ocean of sadness.

Here is just on ladle-full from today’s news: “Bus driver faces charges in Tenn. school bus crash that killed 6.” How does one begin to process the depths of sadness in just this one headline – the suffering of the victims’ families, the suffering of the bus driver – let alone the floods of other headlines breaking like tsunamis on the shores of my consciousness, day after day after day? This is one reason I do not like movies so much anymore. Why heap fistfuls of fictional angst and fictional tragedy on top of the ocean of real sadness already threatening to drown me?
Well okay sometimes I do like movies, but only films that give me a temporary escape into sane and coherent little worlds. These are usually old movies such as “The Best Years of Our Lives” or “O Voyager” or when I really need some real high-power escapism, a Busby Berkeley or Fred Astaire musical.  Take one of my all-time favorites:”It’s a Wonderful Life.” Even though this movie is a fantasy with a dollop of horribly flawed theology thrown in, it is so much saner than the reality of the world we now live in. William Butler Yeats perfectly captures I feel about the current world in his great poem “The Second Coming.”

The Second Coming by W.B. 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?

Honestly I think the best and usually the only response to the news that assaults our souls every day is intense prayer for the suffering. Also we can try to maintain a sense of a loving desire to learn and understand the underlying reasons so that we can avoid contributing to any further suffering of our fellow human beings. But be warned, both prayer and seeking understanding will open huge cans of worms. More like volcanoes. There will be upheaval, but if we pray and seek understanding with the intention to love everyone including our perceived enemies, the upheaval will eventually lead to happier, more loving, healthier world.

An actual flood that happened in my town. Photo by Aaron Apple, October 2016.

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