No Man is an Island

I wandered over to the headstone of my Grandpa Jesse Davis after Aunt Becky’s graveside service and while standing to the side of his bones (Grandma Mildred told me to not step on folks in the graveyard…it’s not respectful), I pondered his death. Born in 1901…died 1969. I commented to my contemporary fifty-something cousins, I have fifteen years left. Or forty-six years if my life-span tracks closer to Grandma Davis lying beside Jesse. Contingent upon the whirling mix of genetic longevity piped down to me through the maternal tree trunk along with how much ice cream I eat.

That sober moment led to this reflection written by John Donne. Donne’s thoughts also remind me of Mike Cope’s sermon yesterday about spiritual intubation from Romans 16 and how we sometimes can’t pray so our friends pray for us…sometimes we can’t walk and our families walk for us…sometimes we can’t breath and our church breathes for us. This sounds almost eastern mystic. “Remember we are all one-all the same.” Dalai Lama

Donne lived in Tudor and Stewart England and daily life was punctuated by the tolling of church bells noting important events including funerals. So according to Donne, no man is an island. According to the Apostle Paul and preacher Mike, we breathe and walk and pray for one another. Such a universally profound observation among 17th century and 21st century Christians…and mystics like the Dalai.. must have divine tap roots.

Donne wrote words we’ve heard all of our lives. And so I’m reading them afresh and thinking of the bones of those who have blazed an eternal trail before me. Maybe this reads best standing in the midst of a cemetery. Here is what Donne wrote:

Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? But who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? But who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? 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.

7 responses to “No Man is an Island”

  1. Never have read that Donne quote nor knew the context. Cope’s intubation idea and sermons is a great metaphor for us. I have heard him talk about that before, how the church had intubated his family time and again when they couldn’t breathe for themselves, and we do that for each other. I love you, bro. I find I write when I’m well and I’m weller when I write.

    • Donne has some great thoughts. I need to research his life a little more and find out the context from which he wrote. Great seeing you over the weekend. Loved being in the Kibo gathering.
      Love you also. Thanks for all the writing pointers. Just starting reading about nonfiction narrative last night.

      • It’s the genre you’ve probably read through sports stories and enjoyed in SI really for many, many years. I think I fell in love with words reading great SI stories, well, among other things. It was fun having you here and glad workshop sparked something in us to be together for it.

  2. Thanks for sharing that insight Brent.There was a time it was funny when someone said, “Deep Thoughts”, but I’m saying it now…

    • Marilyn:
      Great to hear from you. I saw you from afar at Becky’s funeral…I think. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to visit. We miss you and your beautiful voice…and your smile!

      Love and peace, brent

  3. Brent, caught the first few lines with interest…then had to read the rest. When I was leading up to being 68 years old I wondered if I like my Dad would go early. Comes with reaching 65 and knowing that I am now that old person of my thoughts in early life. When 68 came and was gone I relaxed a little…went on to think, this is not so old after all. Now I try to stay healthy and according to the 70 and one-half rule, have another 12 years or so to go!

    Losing Becky as the first sister to go to the Lord, it makes me know we all should be ready at any time just like she was. And, as age happens, it gives us time to look toward that heavenly goal. After all, three-eighths of our family is already there.

    • Thanks for the comments Bud. Recently heard (Francis Chan I think) talk of how eight year olds think of time passing as at the corresponding speed to their age, ie 8 MPH. So you are now speeding through life exceeding just about all posted speed limits. Please…slow down.

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