Slouching Toward Post-Election Chaos? On Two Antidotes and Fixing Your Gaze Upward

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

It was a troubling poem for a troubled time (1919):

The Second Coming

by 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: a waste of desert sand;
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
Wind 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?

Do Yeats’ foreboding verses seem familiar in this troubled time, too?

Consider.

Regarding the poem’s religious allusions, prophecy scholars are doubling down, just now, on so-called “end times” themes as if the “twenty centuries” cited might also indicate our own spiritual era coming to a close.

And regarding the slow “slouch” of socialism that had begun tearing apart Europe in Yeats’ day and that inspired the poem, consider how a twenty-first century American version of that same “rough beast” of socialism (that first reared its ugly head in the 19th century over here) is “moving its slow thighs” as close as it has ever been to another birthplace, another kind of Bethlehem: Washington D.C.

See what I mean?

Indeed, many modern observers and historians argue that the American dream may be turning, now, into the latter stages of its own kind of “vexed…nightmare,” as Yeats put it, if allowed to be destroyed by Marxist revolutionaries on both inner city streets and in certain corners of Congress where comrades, whether clad in black bloc or suits and dresses, in each their own manner have greatly contributed to “things falling apart” while “anarchy (has been) loosed.”

On Universal and Eternal Themes

Good poetry addresses universal themes. “The Second Coming,” although written one hundred years ago, addresses similar topics today, where, once again, themes of freedom versus totalitarianism and good versus evil are playing out.

This time, in our nation.

Let’s hope and pray we can slow, if not stop, the beast.

We will know when the votes are finally counted and as the “new normal” we keep hearing about and experiencing on several levels continues, having already cast its ominous hue.

In the meantime, to help quell the chaos, I offer the following antidotes and encouragement.

Antidote to Chaos #1, Jordan Peterson

Psychologist and author Jordan Peterson offers an antidote to multi-faceted chaos whether internal, external, or a combination of both, a cure that saved his nervous system, mind–and spirit–during his harrowing experience dealing with withdrawal from an addiction to benzodiazepine, medication he had taken to counteract severe anxiety attacks.

He offers some details on the experience in a recent article excerpted below while sharing notes on his antidote that has universal application in an anxiety-filled, chaotic world, whether the strife is due to internal or external factors, personal or societal. He cites also the work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who wrote of survival in the Soviet gulags:

So what was the reason [for suffering]? What kind of life purpose is strong enough to withstand the overwhelming degree of suffering that can befall us in times of crisis and chaos? What “deeper meaning” will sustain the human spirit through a long, grinding sojourn in the underworld: through a bout of severe illness or a stint in a gulag? 

For Peterson and Solzhenitsyn [writes the article’s author], the answer is responsibility.

Responsibility for his family, said Peterson, helped him withstand and finally overcome his physical trial, and, I sense, a greater responsibility to his “extended family,” too, i.e., those he can reach through teaching and writing.

But there is another antidote, this one to quell not just the chaos in the flesh and in the land (a scorching, pitiless, deserted place when all is said and done) but an eternal antidote of light, life, and love.

Antidote to Chaos #2, Jesus Christ

In comparisom with Peterson’s solution, the second cure for chaos also deals with both external and internal causes and bearing responsibility for others.

In comparison with Yeats’ poem, “it” also reaches back twenty centuries and emanates from Bethlehem but this time, the literal city, and this time a cradle in a manger not prompting vexing nightmares but promising the long-prophesied light now come into the world.

In contrast to Peterson’s solution, however, this antidote is embodied in a Person, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Who came “in the fullness of time” not–and in contrast to Yeat’s metaphor–a beast to enslave but a redeemer to free.

And the responsibility taken on by Jesus was to His Father.

A responsibility that was really ours.

As the old hymn says, “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay.”

He did this, of course, on the cross.

As explained in John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus Christ, Who, as that eternal antidote and for the noblest of all causes, suffered, too, but for us that we might have hope that transcends nations, ideologies, politics–and chaos, both without and within.

Jesus Christ, Who suffered to procure peace that lasts, no matter what slouches near, there or here, no matter how deeply we might grieve, on this mortal plain, over the loss of that in which we placed our hopes, our blood, and our treasure.

Because there is more.

Much, much more.

Indeed, as the scripture reveals,

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him– (1 Corinthians 2:9)

So look upward, brothers and sisters, though it be through that dim glass and though for a season we may also mourn.

For as in every era, every “time” whether it be of war or peace, mourning or celebration, planting or uprooting; a time to be born or a time to die, we have yet more opportunities to reach out, to minister, to preach, teach, heal, guide, comfort, and encourage–ministering not only to others but also to ourselves.

For that ‘”last Gentile,” he or she who rounds out the “full number” of them, is yet to board the ark, become born again, or enter–spiritually for now, literally, later–that place that neither moth nor rust corrupt nor any theives can break through and steal.

Perhaps it’s even someone you or I know personally.

And keep your gaze fixed because whether our trouble comes from the streets or the halls of power, after all, Jesus did warn us of the days and times to come, where those who hated Him would also hate us, those who persecuted Him would also persecute us.

For our struggle, beloved, “is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). And our real enemy is brilliant and relentless.

But Jesus also said this:

Be encouraged by Him–and by each other.

Look up.

Carry on.

I’ll do what I can, too; watch this space.

And in the meantime, no matter what darkness may come, keep your spiritual bags packed, your oil lamps filled, and get ready for a prelude, if you will, to the Second Coming, that, if a certain prophecy is imminent, could be as close as the twinkling of an eye.

This entry was posted in 2020, Commentaries, encouragement in hard times, GUEST and EMBEDDED FEATURES, most recent posts, spiritual survival and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Slouching Toward Post-Election Chaos? On Two Antidotes and Fixing Your Gaze Upward

  1. A thoughtful and highly relevant post in these troubled times, beginning powerfully with Yeats’ poem written one hundred years ago in an equally troubled era. The modern age has seen no progress in the human heart, only a steady regression, the walk of blind humanity into an abyss of his own making through wrong-headed political movements that evolve into campaigns of evil, repression and totalitarianism. Witness fascism and communism and the route common to them both, socialism. Too often has this spectre been visited upon the masses and proved a failure. Yet again and again it is rolled out as the ideal system of government. Only one thing is for certain, that man never learns the lessons of history. He repeats them, looking within himself for vainglory instead of above, to sublime inspiration. As Paul said to the Colossians: ‘Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him’ (3.1-4 JB). So-called ‘progressives’ are actually harbingers of doom as man moves ineluctably towards the Great Reckoning. They are the unwitting facilitators of prophecy, of cataclysmic events that will unfold we know not when. But all the signs are there: the descent into decadence and widespread evil, the drawing of battle lines in the sand, the blatant apostasy of church leaders – all of these things are feeding into decline and confusion, and ultimately destruction and mayhem. I console myself as I write these lines by listening to sublime music by the Czech composer, Vítezslav Novák, his piano piece ‘Pan, a Poem in Tones’, written in 1910 before the beginning of the downward spiral into madness. The pleasing lyricism of music provides a civilised retreat from the social, cultural and political insanity of the twenty-first century.

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    • pbn says:

      RE: “The pleasing lyricism of music provides a civilised retreat from the social, cultural and political insanity of the twenty-first century.”

      Your comment reminds me of how art reflects reality, whether it’s music or the visual and tactile arts.

      Novak’s piece, written just before totalitarianism in its various iterations (all with bad endings) began ransacking Europe in earnest, sounds in stark contrast to the music of Novak’s contemporary, Russian composer Serge Rachmaninoff, whose music written very soon thereafter in his native country often featured darker, heavier tones in dramatic, minor keys. To me, they reflect the revolution no longer sequestered in the elitist enclaves of the academy and all dressed up in the noblest of terms but (and inevitably) already bleeding down into the streets.

      One can both imagine and view in black and white and living color the scenes and sorrows of the chaos that overtook that part of the world and elsewhere throughout the last century. A Work in Regress, you might say.

      One can see the same impetus to chaos right now, too, in the United States, where, once again, the inevitable brutality of the totalitarian revolutionaries (in our case, the self-proclaimed Marxists. and Democrat Socialists peering out from the rose-colored glasses of callow idealism) just this year began manifesting their own darker–and deadlier–tones in our culture and literally on the torched and looted streets with, already, a small trail of bodies left behind.

      Let’s hope wiser heads prevail in the immediate and longer-term future, but given not only history but also prophecy, we might need to fasten our seat belts

      Given the true nature of man’s heart, more prone to dark than light, unfortunately, retreats are few and far between and don’t last long.

      Maranatha!

      Cheers and blessings,
      Phyllis

      Like

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