As a professional writer, it did not take long for me to come to the realization that my writing could only be as strong as my reading. In order to expand the breadth of my view on humanity, I had to see the world through the eyes of others. In short, I have had to teach myself that my unique views on the world are the sum of the unique views of everyone else around me. This mindset has taught me that others see things quite differently from the way I do. It has also reinforced the fact that we share so much as well.
I was introduced to John Donne in an English Literature class in college. The first time I read his Meditation XVII, the words strummed a chord in my heart. Now, some thirty years later; those same words chime through my soul. For those of you not familiar with the essay, allow me to share what I consider the highlight:
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.
This total involvement in humanity, this understanding of the need for human beings to cling to one another, this sense of our collective interdependency; it is indeed a rare insight. In light of the state of the modern world, these words of counsel seem quite appropriate. Would you be surprised to know that this seemingly timely advice was also written just over 400 years ago?
For those of you who feel outcast, isolated, and alienated; you are not alone. For those of you who despair and are gripped by sorrow and fear; you are not alone. For those of you who feel trapped and bound, with nowhere to turn; you are not alone. For as long as John Donne’s words burn in my soul; I will be with you!
I may not know who you are, but I will pick you up when you fall. I may not know where you live, but I will dry the tears off of your cheek. I may not speak your language, but I will listen to your story. I will be your biggest cheerleader when all others doubt you. I will believe in the unlimited beauty that you bring into this world, even when you do not believe it yourself. I am confident that your gifts are unique and should be shared with the world. I look in your eyes and I see potential, passion, and purpose!
If you were to reach out to me for any noble reason, I would take your hand. Does this all seem a little “New Age” for you? Do you wonder if perhaps I have taken leave of my senses? Can anybody really care about a multitude of people he has never met? Do you wonder if I have ulterior motives behind all of this?
They asked these exact same questions of John Donne in 1710. You see, he believed in the unlimited potential of all humanity, and acknowledged that all of our lives are woven into a common tapestry. Luckily for all of us, he never wavered in his beliefs. Four centuries later, neither will I!