POETS Day! It’s Yeats Again!

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

I miss the old millennials. The new ones keep checking their phones and when you ask them to clean up the mess they made spilling soup in a rarely used hallway in the restaurant where you both work they say “Okay,” and when you find the mess still there the next day and ask why they didn’t clean up the mess like they said they would, they say “I couldn’t find a mop,” and when you ask why they didn’t ask someone where a mop was they say “I didn’t know who would know,” and then check their phones.

The old millennials were much more engaging, going on and on about the end times. They went a bit far. That’s true for the whole species no matter what eschaton-immanentizing catalyst they choose to promote, and promote they do. There’s no “’I don’t have my ‘Zorp is Nigh!’ sandwich board on because I couldn’t find a paint brush,” from these millennials. They get out in the world and let it know it’s on the clock. Here’s my question: Where did they go?

I live in Birmingham, where there are no subway stations and our art museum, though pretty impressive, lacks big wide government capitol style steps from which to preach to the masses like they always seem to be doing in the background on Law & Order. My town may not be the best “end of the world loonies” barometer, but we get the occasional guy wandering around Lynn Park carrying a sign of the apocalypse while scanning the ground for salvageable cigarette butts. I haven’t seen anyone of that ilk the last few times a car tag or some such caused me to visit the courthouse. I paid my property tax yesterday and didn’t even see a Kirk Cameron t-shirt. There was no Secret Untold Never Before Seen Diaries of Nostradamus marathon on The History Channel this year, at least not one that I saw. Maybe a year ending in 22 isn’t sexy enough to be the finale.

The end of the year was their time. Fire and brimstone and a very strict policy against participation trophies weren’t just awaiting us, they were careering towards a Gregorian stopping point. Repent or else! Did our placard saviors give up? Why are the old millennials suddenly acting like the new millennials?

For whatever reason doomsayers traditionally bind the fate of the cosmos to the motion of one of its smaller planets around on of its least remarkable stars. This is the last POETS Day of the year, but if you put stock in the idea that God has a datebook and is a stickler for deadlines you may worry that this is the last POETS Day of your mortal condition. This may be the last time you think of Alan Alda as well. If that’s the case, you don’t need any prodding from me. Don’t give up what precious time you have left toiling for The Man.  Get a head start on the ultimate weekend. Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday, and then sweet oblivion.

Plus, there are bowl games.

I was reading W.B. Yeats’ Irish Fairy Tales and Folklore yesterday in the property tax line. It’s a great book if such things interest you but I wasn’t giving malevolent shoemakers or other gentry much of my attention. I was doing my year’s end chore and thanks to the noticeable lack of warnings and conspiracy peddlers with astrological connections 2022 seems to be going out without, thinking about Armageddon and how unimaginative we are to conflate one ending with another. Holding Yeats’ book I thought of his end of times poem, this week’s feature, “The Second Coming.”

I was a couple of hundred yards from the main branch of the library, but a trip wasn’t necessary. I had the text of the poem up on my cell phone in seconds. We have everything available in seconds. Even a technology optimist like me can have moments of despair. I love that I have the world’s knowledge in my pocket but things that come easily are not always treated judiciously. We are inundated with news. Everything is immediate, superlative, and transitory. We don’t do our civic duties anymore because that’s for lessor creatures. We defend democracy, at least until the next crisis calls us. We make monsters of people for holding views that we held ourselves and were commonplace three oil changes ago. Lennon was wrong. It’s Instant Zeitgeist that’s gonna get you. Where we once argued about what is truth we moved to whose truth. Now we have ascending theories openly arguing that we abandon truth in favor of narrative while we worry that among seemingly infinite sources, disinformation flourishes. “The falcon cannot hear the falconer.” There is a disconnect between technology and its master.

As I said, I’m a technology optimist and while I agree that the worst are full of passionate intensity their screeds are limited to two-hundred and eighty characters and rarely make it past the jerk circle of their followers. If there’s a lawyer reading right now, I’d appreciate advice on how to copyright the phrase “Tempest in a Tweetpot.” Yeats wondered how the world could recover from a World War that drowned its innocence. Things must have looked bleak, but we survived. The center held. It’s not hard to look at the screen and see a litany of disasters, but that’s indulgent. The world is currently a safer, more prosperous place than it has ever been, we just know in minutes about troubles that we would never have known about before.

There are serious things of serious consequences about the world, but there are also cranks wandering around in public places yelling about the sky falling.

Happy New Year and enjoy the poem.

“The Second Coming”
William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)

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?

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