April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
(from The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot)
The sun is hidden behind thick, dark clouds. A cold rain has been falling all day. I didn’t know this, however, until I crawled out of bed this afternoon and asked Susan how the day was. “Not good.” She said. An understatement. Cruel is more like it. Eliot could have been standing on my deck when he wrote these lines; breathing in the nascent scent of lilacs along with the stink of liquid manure; envisioning unspoken hopes and mislaid dreams floating on the surface of ruddy lawns.
April has indeed been a cruel month. Look at the weather. Devastating floods along the Missouri River. Tornadoes in the Southern US, an earthquake in Indonesia, a cyclone in Mozambique causing over 1,000 cases of malaria.
It’s more than just weather, though. Eliot’s Wasteland could well spring from the latest headlines.
Last week I subscribed to the digital version of the Wall Street Journal hoping to become more versed on current events, better able to think clearly about world affairs. Here are just some of the headlines that have slapped me in the face:
This is the news. Not all the news, for sure. But the news nonetheless. Eliot’s Wasteland is present in every corner of the planet and accounted for in every media source reaching out to young and old, rich and poor, educated and non-schooled.
Is this I good thing?
In itself, no. It is a very cruel thing to bombard countless consumers with violent images, suggestive stories, perverse privacy made public. It damages to our hearts, our minds, our souls.
In 1995 (back in the glory days), I spent several weeks on a psychiatric unit. Nearly all of us there were voluntary admits who knew we needed to retreat from the world to reclaim our sanity. To achieve this, we entrusted the staff to make choices for us that were in our best interest. One of these had to do with media. Staff members carefully trained to monitor the psychological impact of movies, TV shows, even newspapers, became our censors.
Now all bets are off. The last I visited someone on a psych unit, the patients were staring at a “news” special about a ring of prostitute serial killings. It was visiting hour, and several of them had guests, but none they couldn’t take their eyes off the captivating glare of the screen.
Is this news? Perhaps. But is it good? I think not.
Can anything be done about it? To a large extent, no. The cruelty we find in the Wasteland has so permeated our planet that every inch has been infested.
So what about the Good News? How can Good News be spoken in a world filled with bad news? Is it even possible? YES! In fact, the Good News of God’s love in the saving grace of Jesus Christ is most believable when we face the cold, cruel world.
How can we receive Christ as our Savior if we don’t believe we have anything to be saved from?
These are some of the things I think about on days I lay in bed past noon. Sometimes the weight of the Wasteland bears down on me like a cold wet blanket even Briley’s kisses can’t conquer. But I know the cruelty of these days, these months, even these seasons, will in God’s own time be replaced by a bright, light hope for years to come.