Imagine you are in an orchestra. When the orchestra began to play, a horrendous sound went out. All the instruments were out of tune. You tried to fix it by tuning your own instrument to itself. The orchestra remained dissonant. You tuned to the person next to you. Though the two of you sounded good together, still the orchestra sounded like a million cat shrieks. In order for an orchestra to sound harmonious, you need a source tone, a note to which each instrument is tuned.
The late Irish poet William Butler Yeats lived during the aftermath of what we now call World War I as well as the Spanish flu. Pregnant women accounted for nearly 70 percent of the fatalities during the Spanish flue, in some regions. Yeats’s wife caught the virus and nearly died. During this time, Yeats likely penned the following: “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.”
Those words ring just as true today as they did then. Strife, conflict, and tragedy are reaching heights few of us experienced before. I do not know what Yeats meant by “the centre cannot hold,” but the Apostle Paul understood the “centre” as God. In his letter to the Ephesians, he said the Father sent the Son to redeem God’s people “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ (Ephesians 1:10).”
So many of us are fooled into thinking we can make our own peace – tune to our own instruments. “If only nice people sit around a table and say nice things, we can solve the problems,” some say. Or, “If we let technology, government policy, and education progress, then we’ll achieve it,” others say. History shows us such thinking is naive.
Our underlying issues are so deep only God can heal them. Tuning yourself to government policies or politicians cannot bring lasting peace. The first step to peace is repenting of your pride – most of all your pride against God. The second step is lifting your eyes above our problems and looking to him who offers true peace. “Christ himself is our peace,” said Paul (Ephesian 2:14). The more people who grab hold of Christ and truly embody his peace the more peaceful our world will be.
One thought on “Where to look for lasting peace (Ephesians 2:14)”
Since writing this, I have thought more about Yeats’s line, “the centre cannot hold,” and what he meant by it. If he is referring to his present historical moment, it seems he means that there is nothing in his modern, post-war society to hold society collectively together. The gradual eroding of the concept of God from our of society to create a secular, god-less society led to a society without the resources and collective integrated-life to give meaning to their pain and suffering. The same is true in North America today during the pandemic. We have discovered that our secular, god-less society, which is even more obvious today than in Yeats’s day, cannot provide for us the resources to endure well, make wise decisions, and sustain ourselves through these temporal tribulations. The only “center” that can hold is the Center that created the universe and all that is in it.