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 bells tolls; it tolls for thee.
John Donne, who died at the age of 59, in 1631, wrote this famous bit of prose as he was recovering from a serious illness. He was, as they say, born a Catholic at a time when Catholics in England were persecuted for having wrong ideas in their heads. His brother Henry was a university student prior to his arrest in 1593 for harboring a Catholic priest whom he betrayed under torture. Henry Donne died in Newgate prison of bubonic plague, leading John Donne to begin questioning his Catholic faith. (I should think so.) In 1610 and 1611 he wrote two anti-Catholic polemics: Pseudo-Martyr and Ignatius his Conclave. Although King James was pleased with Donne’s work, he refused to reinstate him at court and instead urged him to take holy orders. Donne acceded to the King’s wishes and in 1615 was ordained into the good old C of E. One can not help but conclude that his conception of reality was befuddled by all manner of supernaturalism and religious tomfoolery. [this goes to motive Your Honor]
He married a nice girl named Ann and lived off her dowry generously providing her with 12 children in 16 years. She kicked the bucket 5 days after the birth of the last. Five of the kids survived their tenth birthday. Donne noted that the death of a child would mean one less mouth to feed, but he could not afford the burial expenses. Interestingly enough, he wrote something called Biathanatos in 1608. It was published after his death and contains a defense of self-homicide (suicide), listing prominent Biblical examples including Jesus, Samson, Saul, and Judas Iscariot. [it goes to credibility Your Honor, if it please the Court?]
In short I think Johnny was bullshitting himself (and us) with that “We are not islands” malarky. OK, sure, we can build causeways to each other and pretend this makes us a continent, but, the causeways can only be constructed with material we dig out of our tiny bit of allotted turf, leaving us tenuously connected, but slightly less massive as a consequence. The more causeways we build, the more other hands we hold, the more we can convince ourselves we are all one and not all alone. But the sea is a persistent landlord. Time washes all causeways away, as do storms and, in the end, life in the final tsunami. Then and only then the bell really tolls for thee!
Another way off the island has been talked about quite a lot lately. It’s one of thousands. I read last night that Francis Crick of DNA (double-helix) fame is widely believed to have been flying on LSD when the structure of the Holy molecule came to him. I bet Steve Jobs and at least half the “Lords of Silicon Valley” get a big kick out of that. I get a kick out of knowing that [SANDOS] Pharmaceutical had been marketing, and making available to scientists for experimentation, LSD, under the trade name Delysid since 1947. Try to think of it as little space ships in a pill guaranteed to get you off the island. No guarantee on what planet you will land on, or, what you will find there, but, for those with a curious nature at least is WAS off the island and better than pretending you weren’t really an island at all. At least it was honest when you come right down to it. And, you did go there and back alone, openly.
So what was The Buddha on about with his “Life is suffering and suffering is caused by a grasping desire to make permanent those things that, by their very nature, can never be permanent”?
Wouldn’t The Buddha have told Johnny Donne that he was full of shit? That of course we are all islands and that this… If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,… nonsense is an illusion in his own head that he had manufactured, as part of a system, to not feel so lonely? Wouldn’t he have told him to “Buck-Up” and when confronted with three doors, always pick the one in the middle?
Johnny Donne and his wife Ann, King James, The Buddha, Francis Crick and Steve Jobs all went into a bar. Francis, a notorious womanizer, tried to slap the make on Ann, who was between pregnancies at the time. The King ordered a sloe-gin fizz and Johnny praised the Lord for, in His infinite wisdom, creating the blackthorn bush and providing mankind with sloe berries for their nourishment. The Buddha rolled his eyes and sat down in the middle of the floor, in a full lotus position, of course, and pointed one finger toward the ceiling. The bartender, who was thinking to himself, get a load of these characters, had no idea what a sloe-gin fizz was, but, perceived that the guy on the floor wanted him to turn the fan on. So he did. Steve Jobs gasped as he gazed at the spinning fan that had melted into a rainbow of colors. The world would never be the same.