Saturday, May 31, 2014

No One is an Island, Entire of Itself

Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he knows not it tolls for him. And perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingraffed into that body, whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me; 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; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another . . .

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, English poet and cleric (1572-1631)

Today I break with tradition and present an image from a rather distant past. It stands for the memories of scenes and feelings that swelled up in me today as Matthew 5: 1-12, "The Beatitudes", was read during a celebration of life service. The Mount of the Beatitudes is a beautiful, peaceful, and spirit-filled place that I have been blessed to visit on several occasions with loved ones. I am inspired by the scripture and by the setting, and my memories reminded me of the contemplative comfort shared.

Because Betty loved poetry, Tennyson, Brooke, and Donne appeared throughout her service. I was moved by Donne's image of each life as a story -- with myriad chapters of toils, joys and sorrows -- being linked and continuing on in the life-stories of others and of all humankind combined as one volume. No one is an island, entire of itself.

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