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. ;-)