In the early 1900s, the world also experienced upheaval: World War I and its aftermath, the Spanish flu pandemic, the Bolshevik and Russian revolutions, and the Easter Uprising in Ireland. A witness to those atrocities was the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, in response to which he composed “Second Coming”(1919).

Yeats’s imagination limped before the wanton destruction of life as he knew it and could not conceive of a pre-war world in which life would continue. The nub of what remained in his psyche was the Second Coming of the Anti-Christ as depicted in the Book of Revelation, called the rough beast in his poem.

Other chilling metaphors shadow our present upheaval and afford critical insight into its darkness. The falcon’s ever widening gyre speaks to breakaways from established values: untrammeled freedom is all that matters. The blood-dimmed tide describes the wholesale slaughter of combatants locked in conflict: no matter the aftermath of deals struck by superpowers.

Yeats views such lawlessness as the antecedent for The Second Coming—An epiphany of sickening depth: a Sphinx-like creature, its gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, moves its slow thighs across the desert, certain of its destination: Bethlehem.

Until now, the beast has not arrived, but our world seems ripe for it. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold—says Yeats of his world. The same holds true for ours. Mushiness countermands foundations, changes yes to no at dizzying rates, lets slide the obvious. It’s too costly to stand for anything. Of more comfort is mindlessness.

A stark scenario, to be sure, only countered by prayer and meditation. Aside from spin-doctors’ manipulations, there is a Power still at work in creation: within our very hearts, always a safe refuge in the storm.