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In my English class, we learned there is such a thing as “excessive love.” Examining William Yeats’s poem “Easter 1916,” we found once again the value of old literature truly lies in its ability to connect with later generations. The Yeats poem may have been written nearly 100 years ago to an event in history known as the Easter Rising, in which Ireland revolted against British rule.
It still resonates with readers today, especially regarding the concept of “excessive love.”
This does not refer to caring for a person or a thing, but something less concrete and less attainable. For as long as society has existed people have wanted change and reform.
Yeats wrote his poem in the aftermath of watching close friends who had been political extremists be executed by the state for their revolutionary acts. The tone of “Easter 1916” is, at best, wishy-washy. Yeats never defended what his friends did, or stated he thought they were right.
Instead, he claimed not to have any extreme views of his own, and questioned if something so abstract was even worth consideration.
It got me thinking about parallels to the causes today which have spawned such energy in people.
The need to challenge and reform society is nothing new. Literature has warned us about what could happen without change.
In real life, President Barack Obama blazed his way to victory with a simple slogan: change. Movements for reform such as Occupy Wall Street have gained fervent supporters.
It’s no secret society is currently being swept by a wave of “excessive love,” just as Yeats saw in his time.
So it becomes obvious to me, then, that what appears to be a current fad might in fact just be a resurgence of something that’s always present in our society, either as an undercurrent or as an overture.
Perhaps excessive love is an irrevocable part of the human condition.
But some of us, like Yeats, have the ability to remain ambivalent about hot-button issues.
In America, and especially here in Clarksville, which is so close to Fort Campbell, and so incredibly supportive of the military, we are raised with the notion fighting for a noble cause is the right thing to do, and dying for it makes us heroes.
“Excessive?” We might scoff. “There’s no such thing as too much love for my country/gay rights/women’s rights/civil rights.”
Are all those causes worthy of attention and support? Certainly. Is it sometimes necessary to fight for the right thing? Absolutely. But at a certain point, we need to step back and really think about how much violence or radical demonstrations will really accomplish.
There are civilized ways of bringing change. What Yeats was trying to accomplish in his poem, and what I’m trying in this article, is things like fighting and dying for what you believe in should be a last resort, and by no means should it ever be glorified.
In the end, your life, the people you cherish and the contributions you make to the world comes first. That is what is meant by “excessive love.”
If you really want change, try writing to your representatives. Create petitions. Run for office.
Open lines of communication with people in power, and you can get amazing things accomplished.
Don’t anger the people who could potentially help you by rioting in the streets.
Or start with something small; a project in your community could easily blossom to encompass a larger scope than you ever originally imagined.
I know dying for a cause you believe in may sound noble, glorious and even romantic in theory, but the plain truth of the matter is, you’d leave a lot of people behind.
You can accomplish a lot more for a cause you excessively love by sticking around, and being active and constructive. TAS
Filed Under: Perspectives
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