No Man Is An Island
Why does it take 100 million sperm to fertilize one egg? Because not one will stop and ask for directions.
This old joke giving an innocent jab at men is funny because there is probably at least some partial truth to it. All of us, not just men, sometimes have a difficult time asking for help. We like to do things on our own, and we don’t want to be a burden to others by asking for help.
I have some advice my friends, go ahead and ask if you need help of any kind. If the recipient is like most of us, we’ll probably feel good that you thought highly enough of us to choose us to ask. And here’s a little tip for the “asker” – never disclose to that the person you are currently asking was tweflth on the list. It tends to diminish that feel-good moment for the one being asked. 🙂
In a poem titled “No Man Is An Island” this dapper young man on your left, John Donne, reminds us (humankind) that we human beings do not thrive when isolated from others. We do better when we have each other to rely on. Mr. Donne recognized this, or at least wrote it down in the form of a poem way back in 1624.
Remember those days? People led full lives up until about the age of 39, upon which most of them then died. John’s wife died at the age of 33, but after bearing 12 children you might consider that a relatively reasonable option. Not John Donne! He was a man of great financial means that avoided McDonalds and most cancer-causing food preservatives in general. He lived to be 59! I digress.
When John Donne walked the earth, there were no cell phones or computers, radios or televisions, or even automobiles or airplanes. People had a lot of time to sit and think… alone…and isolated. So although this poem still holds the same truth for us today, it just might be that it was a sentiment given for a different reason.
I always like to look up the background on stuff like this. There is almost always way more to the story than we might have thought. Here’s a little information about the man himself, John Donne, and his life in a nutshell:
John Donne (1572–1631) grew up in London, a wealthy young Roman Catholic man about town in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. But when he secretly married the 17-year-old Anne More, daughter of the lieutenant of the Tower, he ended up imprisoned for several weeks in Fleet Prison and the next several years were difficult for Donne and his young wife. Donne eventually renounced his Catholicism, arguing in an influential essay that Catholics should give their allegiance to King James, and partially in gratitude for that, he was restored to the court’s favor on the condition that he enter the Anglican ministry. When she was 33, Anne died after giving birth to their 12th child. Donne’s poetry in younger years contained messages that were both roguish satires and love poems. Later in life, Donne wrote more religious poetry and remain to this day greatly admired.
Spoiler alert! Skip this paragraph if you enjoy reading a poem and interpreting it yourself first! But here is the scoop on what is the widely accepted and shared meaning regarding this poem around the world:
Donne was a Christian. But this concept is shared by other religions, principally Buddhism. It’s origin and inspiration were born of a quotation from John Donne himself, which appeared in his Devotions upon emergent occasions and seuerall steps in my sicknes – Meditation XVII, 1624:
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
So here is this poem that I love so much! I love that it reminds us that, “Hey, talk to each other! Get friends and hang out! We’re all in this together anyway – might as well get to know a few other humans along the way, eh? Spread your wings, take a risk or five, learn from each other by talking to each other! And not just people you would normally choose to hang with – step out of your comfort zone and give yourself permission to be naiive and clueless!” (I’ve perfected that one). 🙂
In this way, we will connect to each other so that when we ride that big elevator to the sky you will leave no doubt that you are taking a part of us with you – because we chose to share it with you. And you will also know that you will never be gone completely, because you chose to leave a part of you with us.”
That bell that calls us together – it not only tolls for “thee,” it also tolls for “we.”
No Man Is An Island by John Donne
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
~ John Donne