No Man is an Island

No man is an island

Well, really, no one is an island.  I can’t say I fancy the gender specificity of John Donne’s poem, but I love his message.

Here are his insightful words:

 

“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.

You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher. Let’s dissect this poem, shall we? In this poem John Donne explores the idea of the connectedness of people. People are not isolated islands. We are all part of a larger thing. Take it apart:

“No Man Is an Island” by John Donne

No one is by [himself]. We are all connected to each other.

No man is an island, entire of itself

every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

The “main” is the mainland.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

clod = small piece of dirt.

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.

A promontory is a big rocky hunk of land that juts out into the sea. This line says that a piece of dirt is just as important as a huge mass of land or a beautiful home. Even people who seem “unimportant” to the world are just as important as anyone else.

Any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind;

and therefore never send to know

for whom the bell tolls;

Long ago, churches used to ring their bells with clappers signaling that someone had died. 

it tolls for thee.

When we hear the bells ringing, we don’t need to ask who it is. It is as if a part of us died as well, because we are all connected to each other.

 

People eventually wither when isolated from others. Of course there is variation in how much isolation people need or can tolerate, and people fall in different places on a spectrum of introverted → extroverted personalities.

 

Gadzooks!

There is extensive scientific evidence of harmful physiological and psychological effects of isolation and loneliness.  Feeling lonely is not the same as being alone. “For some people, even though they have what on the outside looks like a social world, their internal experience is loneliness.” (Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine.)

 

What to do? What to do?

 

Un-isolate yourself. Seek others. Choose face-to-face encounters over social media. Attend a REC Retreats weekend retreat. REC participants are stunned at how quickly they bond with other participants, and many ongoing friendships result from meeting at a retreat.

We can never have too many friends. Will you be my friend?

 

This analysis of the poem is courtesy of “Mensa for Kids”.

For a good read on the negative effects of loneliness, check out this well-referenced article: http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/loneliness-can-really-hurt-you/