To whistle past the graveyard
1. (idiomatic, US) To attempt to stay cheerful in a dire situation; to proceed with a task, ignoring an upcoming hazard, hoping for a good outcome.
2. (idiomatic, US) To enter a situation with little or no understanding of the possible consequences. -- Wiktionary.
I was on the phone with Bob Wright the other day talking about our present political and economic situation, and we agreed that words of the long-dead Irish poet William Butler Yeats seem fresh and new.
The Second Coming
William Butler Yeats, 1921
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?
Image of a double gyre.
A gyre is a circular or spiral form or motion -- a vortex is a gyre, so is the water in your toilet when it flushes -- and the term is often used to describe ocean currents. Yeats became obsessed by gyres, crafting an arcane theory of human behavior and history from the concept. But though Yeats took the concept to the point of the ridiculous, in The Second Coming he found the right metaphor for the chaos he observed around him in the current events and recent past of the Great War, the Russian Revolution and the Irish War of Independence and subsequent civil war.
Gyres, of individuals and entire peoples, ideas and worldviews, proceed upon their own interior logic and purpose, yet intersect with each other with unpredictable and often bloody results. The rabbit proceeds along his gyre, searching for a bit of tasty forage, and intersects with the gyre of the falcon, searching for the same thing. Only different, much to the surprise of the rabbit.
The ATF, in all its current confusion and internal bureaucratic cannibalism, is proceeding upon one sort of gyre. So, too, is each and every actor within that disorderly maelstrom. Gyres within gyres. Double gyres within double gyres. Yet each gyre will proceed to its own conclusion, each for each, in dissipation or crescendo.
In my life of 57 years I have reached a few conclusions of observed fact and mystic faith: Ideas matter (and no idea, good or bad, ever truly dies); actions have consequences (intended and unintended); there is no moral equivalence between good and evil which are locked in eternal struggle; love, family and liberty are all that matters; and, finally, we are all acting to God's unknowable purpose.
Thus I know that the temporal gyres we each find ourselves in together will reach their own ends, very often in unpredictable events that other folks later, looking back with 20-20 hindsight, will call it "history" and say, "Why of course it happened that way. It was perfectly predictable."
Yet we are, most of us, whistling past the graveyard of history, hoping against hope that there are no zombies lurking behind the gothic ironwork that encloses the gyre-ends of our ancestors and their enemies.
And so, upon this cold winter morning I am led to this -- that the intersecting gyres of the arrogant lies and assumptions of egotistic bureaucracy and the simple demand for truth, accountability and justice are about to collide head-on in a conclusion, for one or both. The end state of those two competing gyres, those two fundamentally conflicting visions of the world, will be larger or smaller in importance depending upon decisions taken and the amount of whistling past the graveyard that is being done -- by both sides.
On a micro scale, this is evident in the current maelstrom within the ATF. There we find Yeats' "The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity."
There will be those who say that I am discussing rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic when I pay attention to internal ATF politics. Yet it is on small events that cataclysmic events pivot upon. Whether the thoughtful adults or the petulant, misbehaving children of the ATF bureaucracy win this current argument is, as we saw at Waco, a matter of life and death for some.
Gyres within gyres.
"No more free Wacos."
And there ARE zombies in the graveyard of history.
So quit whistling.
PS: Hope to see some of you Irregulars at the Indy 1500 gun show tomorrow. You too, Jody. ;-)
One of the finest pieces of philosophy that I have read by you - and prophetic on more than one level. By cosmic coincidence, karmic intersection or sheer irony, as I read your words and reflected on a book by the outstanding Judge Robert Bork titled 'Slouching Toward Gomorrah', an obvious play on Yeats' line, a television commercial was playing in the next room with a familiar song.
I have no idea what the commercial was about, but the song was the old Kerry Livgren / Kansas song,
"The Point of No Return".
Safe travels; and protect the feet!!!!
- j -
"There will be those who say that I am discussing rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic when I pay attention to internal ATF politics. Yet it is on small events that cataclysmic events pivot upon."
Even on the Titanic, the smallest of things could have changed the outcome. E.g., the guy at the wheel could have made the very smallest of a turn, for a very short time before correcting, when they were hundreds of miles from the iceberg and consequently not hit it. Then again, maybe he did and that is _why_ they hit it.
In the long run it is not possible for us to know what the result of our current actions will be. We can only act according to our best estimate of correct action and accept the result. Rarely, if ever, will we know all, or even most, of the inputs that bring about any given result.
Like the song of a bird, what you have said (and repeated) rings with a beauty of its own. The tiny portion of the past we each can know was God’s plan. Although we may not see it, the future is too. This we can say with certainty.
The now is a more personal thing, in that, depending upon whether we behave within His will or not, our personal gyre twists for good or evil. The ATF should beware. Many of us have, as commanded, sold our cloak to purchase the means to defend ourselves. That, being within the will of our Creator, can only be a good thing—No more unpunished state murder. No more Wacos.
Where can you be found at the 1500?
We don't have a table, but I will violate Army etiquette and be walking around inside with a Tru-Spec boonie hat with my nametape sewn on the back. If it is not too hot I will be wearing a blue and black windbreaker type jacket with an OD Three Percent patch over the heart.
Look for the white haired fat guy with the wooden cane. I may find a place to sit down (that's the plan) though I don't know at the moment exactly where.
"the intersecting gyres of the arrogant lies and assumptions of egotistic bureaucracy and the simple demand for truth, accountability and justice are about to collide head-on in a conclusion, for one or both."
I'm not so sure there will be a conclusion. The bad sees the right, and fights to avoid it, when it can't win. It slinks away to reform into some other nasty beast and waits for an opportunity to hunt again. Even in this collision, its size and inertia work to sustain it in one way or another.
There will be a rearranging all right, but not of deck chairs. It will be that of strategies, outlooks, personal stock and beliefs.
One of the finest pieces of philosophy that I have read by you - and prophetic on more than one level.
Mike, I couldn't agree more.
I'm again amazed by the highly literate quality of your writing, let alone the revelatory content which is among the very best in political commentary.
The BATFE, in its paroxysm, can still lash out and drag its tormentors with it into the grave. Watch your backs, brothers.
MV, you wrote:
"and, finally, we are all acting to God's unknowable purpose."
Ye do err. The purpose of the LORD God is stated in Scripture. it is also stated in Scripture that we can know and understand Him:
Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
If we can know and understand the LORD, we can also know and understand His purpose, which He also reveals in Scripture.
It has an awful lot to do with this:
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (Revelation 21:3)
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