Several months ago, I got into a discussion with someone who felt that post 9/11, post-Katrina, post-everything that’s going on in the world, our sense of despair was more pronounced than ever before in history, that no generation had ever been faced with such hopelessness for the future. I argued that it’s not unique to our time, that our conflicts and tragedies seem worse because they’re ours, that history is cyclical, blah blah. She remained unconvinced until I quoted Yeats from 1920 at her:
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.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we are facing the end of the world.