The Poetry of Yeats, Humanity and Sci-Fi Dystopias

The Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, is no stranger to flavors of the apocalyptic kind ( see “The Second Coming” ). He seems to have built himself a time machine that persists through the ages…one that certainly pops up at random intervals in my life to remind me of humanity, the void and other persistent existential (and highly important) musings. Today I thought I’d share his short poem “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” which features in a rather intense scene in one of my favorite Christian Bale movies. Yes, I’m talking about Equilibrium (because despite what people have to say about it, it really is BADASS!). Martial arts, long dark coats and rebellion…do I even need to justify myself?

equi
Image via Pinterest
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,   
Enwrought with golden and silver light,   
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths   
Of night and light and the half light,   
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;   
I have spread my dreams under your feet;   
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
                                             W.B.Yeats

 

sean-bean-equilibrium

Art is truly a thing of beauty. It comes in colors, it comes in words. It comes in forms, sounds and feelings. And Yeats’s poem is a gentle wash of a watercolor brush against fine paper. I can fall into the thoughts. It moves me. It reminds me. It changes me. That is what art can do to me. It’s not something that exists in a vacuum, with its ideas and emotions looking at me from the other side of the looking glass: it extends its hand and grabs me. And does not leave me unaltered.

Every ‘creative’ has the potential to feel dystopia like a vast wasteland within themselves, when inspiration is scarce or the well of passion has been allowed to run dry. I can’t say I suffer from these moments in my own personal ‘wasteland’ because I tend to feel inspiration on both sides of the border. I am however, constantly feeling the barren abyss when it comes to questions of humanity. I live in a country that doesn’t make any sense to me right now. I used to (although not in agreement with either) be able to understand crime and murder based on social inequality. I could hypothetically reason that people were forced by the deep ruptures in our system to commit atrocities out of desperation or greed. But what I can’t intellectually reason- and what I never will- is pleasure in causing trauma to others. To breaking their souls. To sucking it out and leaving a gaping hole where a person used to be. WARNING: sensitive/uncomfortable content to be discussed. Yesterday, two stories out of thousands that occur in my city, scarred that area of my being that I like to refer to as my soul. The first was about a girl and her father out for a run and walking their dog. A group of males held them at gunpoint and  gang raped the daughter whilst forcing the father to watch. After they were sure sufficient psychological and physical damage had been done, they let them go. They let their bodies go…but what happened to those people’s minds, hearts and souls? We’ll never be able to comprehend. The next was an elderly woman, driving her car innocently out her driveway and the same thing. Only there wasn’t anyone she loved with her. Only guns. Only fear. Only light taken away… “only”.

Every single day when I return home, I take a minute to understand that I made it through the day, without someone holding a gun to my head and taking away what makes me love, dream and hope. I say thank you- to whatever unseen forces may exist out there- that my humanity is still intact. But I wonder…about the things that make people emotionless. That make them want to harm others. Is it an inherent cruelty? Or is society creating these heartless mobs? Shaping and duplicating…in preparation for the apocalypse to come. How can intellectuals and creatives impact on these hardened monsters that are multiplying exponentially? How do we fuse ideas, words and art into a special inoculation that can remind people…yes, you do have a heart somewhere deep inside the mess.

Maybe it comes down to holding on tightly to those things that keep you feeling something. Maybe I’m asking futile questions. But maybe there is hope amidst the dystopia…if we can just ‘touch’ that point within other humans that ripples our benevolence

 

‘Welcome to Dystopia’ image via wizzley.com

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Published by

Kamalini Govender

I'm that girl that looks badass in her black boots reading Gothic Psychoanalytic Lit but really just wants to pew pew pew with someone.

11 thoughts on “The Poetry of Yeats, Humanity and Sci-Fi Dystopias”

  1. I memorized that one 😋

    Yeah, everything seems massively fucked up right now. Its the grand battle between darkness and light. Dark seems to be winning but I’d rather believe its being pushed out – kicking and screaming, mind you, but the light will eventually prevail.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s been on my mind a lot…how can I and others just like me bring about a change? I lack the martial arts skill to go about being violent…and weapons aren’t the answer outside of tv series or movies. Protests and other forms of riot are important but I wonder…how can we change the initial ideas that are corrupting society? I genuinely believe in the power of art and words. But minds need to be opened at an early age. Good golly! I’m trying to figure out how to save the world over here…big dreams much? Hope you are well Lani Bear Princess 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The second, darker part of your post dovetailed with a conversation I had on the phone a few hours ago with a friend: the subject had been her 6 year old grand-nephew having been beaten by another kid at school, and we spoke about how, not so long ago, a similar fact would have driven the “guilty” kid’s parents to confront their child, forcing him/her to make amends and move to a better behavior. Nowadays? Parents tend to defend their children no matter what, even when they are blatantly guilty, because it’s always “someone else’s fault”. This disconnection from one’s responsibilities is – IMHO – the first step toward the loss of sensitivity that detaches you from your fellow humans’ suffering, that makes it appear as something remote, something you watch from your tv screen, something that is NOT you. From here, step by atrocious step, one can come to the perpetration of those horrible acts you reported.

    Trying to remember there still is beauty in the world is a way of confronting the horror – not eradicating it, maybe, but the only way of keeping hold of the best part of our soul, and keeping it from drowning in black despair.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions is imperative. People love to blame others and look the other way about the role they play in destroying people. All we can do is live with respect and kindness my friend…and hope for a better, brighter future. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A powerful message sad and true as I unfortunately relate to much you are saying. I say unfortunately because I’m just one more (just) how has seen and experienced such behavior.
    For myself I went through a robbery with a gun to my head for 45 minutes while being handcuffed and blindfolded. Luckily there was no additional physical harm, but I can’t relate to people of which actions do leave those psychological holes and destroy everything that was once beautiful and whole.
    I’m always thinking of you my fairy sister and send protection and a guardian angel your way until you can come and see me and get away from your current world. Hugs xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s horrible! I’m so thankful that you are ok…and that you were able to come out of an experience like that being as beautiful and motivating as you are my dear friend. I guess we’ll never truly be able to figure this world out…but I’m glad there are people like you in it. 🙂 Protection spell right back at ya 😉

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