Monday, June 5, 2017

More Substance in our Enmities

In his poem The Stare's Nest, composed at the time of the Irish Civil War, W.B. Yeats wrote these haunting lines:

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart's grown brutal from the fare,
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love; O honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare

I've mentioned my disillusionment, even sense of betrayal, regarding a Catholic blogger I used to admire and respect, Mark Shea. I still look at his blog now and again-- perhaps I shouldn't. Perhaps it's a temptation against charity. But what strikes me is that now perhaps half of his posts are dedicated to diatribes (and I mean diatribes) against Donald Trump, Donald Trump supporters, conservative Catholics, pro-lifers who don't subscribe to the "seamless garment" approach, supporters of the death penalty, and so forth. He seems to be consumed utterly by anger now.

And the same thing can be seen on the other side of the ideological aisle (so to speak). Every now and again I watch Michael Voris's videos . But I find them increasingly tiresome. It's a relentless diatribe (and I mean diatribe) against "the Church of Nice" and many if not most of the hierarchy. I agree with most of what he says about this, and I agree that there is a crisis in the Church, and that corruption has entered deeply into it. But, even given the importance of the crisis, his unrelenting focus on this become overwhelming and quite disturbing. Anger can be perfectly healthy and appropriate, but can you stir it up so constantly without becoming addicted to it?

I've always had the rule of thumb that every movement, once anger becomes its dominant atmosphere, has become toxic. For instance, every movement that uses a raised fist as a symbol is something to steer clear of.

I hope I don't fall into this trap myself. I try not to.  I try to write more about what I love than about what I hate. But I think it's something we should all bear in mind.


  1. not all anger is avoidable or even bad but there's certainly something missing when people are always angry about something or all things

  2. I think you nailed the proper attitude in: "I try to write more about what I love than what I hate." It's a very fine balance; evil should be condemned for what it is. But too steady and too bitter a diet of that, the heart grows bitter from that fare, too, and good takes on the flavour of a mere reactionary response to what is perceived as evil. Good ought to be able to stand on its own.

    As I said, though, I do believe there is a very fine line between prudent discussion of evil, and unhealthy focus on it. Exactly where that line lies, I'm a bit hard-pressed to say.

    (It was good to hear that poem quoted. It quite struck me when I first read it, though I was slightly distracted by "stare," a word that has not made it into the language around here. I had a vague (though I knew, incorrect) impression of a small, rather birdlike creature with unnaturally large eyes. Well, I got the birdlike right, anyway.)

    1. Thanks, Molly. These are the birds I know: seagulls, crows, ducks, chickens, robins, swans...maybe a few others. So I've never even wondered what a stare is. It's always been a poem I liked very much.