"No man is an island entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main."
Skipper: Gilligan, why don't you stop that. You don't know anything about
Gilligan: I know one thing about it. You take up more of it than I do.
"I miss my wife."
I was sitting eating breakfast at a local restaurant when I heard another older gentleman diner tell a waitress that the to-go meal he had ordered was for his wife, who at that very moment was confined in a convalescent home. She had injured her foot and couldn't walk. She was rehabilitating for the time being in a nursing home in Hanford.
Before he left, he said, as much to himself as anyone else, the words above.
Life has a way of finding the hidden connections among perfect strangers. I heard his words and they caused my eyes to water. I have words like that myself, more than a few, more than I wish I had, seriously. I whisper them to myself on daily basis, and usually several times a day.
How sad are such moments when we can't hold them in and utter them out loud. It is as if we are imploring God to take notice of our misery and suffering, yet not in such a way as to think that he will do anything about it. It is a coming to grips with reality; the words uttered like this are more about us testing them out in the real world to see if we can handle the fearful meaning that they contain.
They are magical in a way as they bind us to others, to friends, to relatives, to loved ones, and to strangers alike. For once you lose someone you value with your entire being, your eyes will always water and your heart will forever hurt whenever you hear about or see the same type of pain that you and every other human being on this planet suffers.
When I was growing up the John Donne quote written above was ubiquitous. It was in every single graduation speech written in the United States during that period. It was into every American Legion essay written regardless of topic. Kids would recite it in their prayers at night, and Mothers would use it to try to shape our being right after telling us about all the starving kids in Asia.
And dads would offer it up as sage advice as a coda to their response to every matter that you ever took to them.
"Dad, I got Mary Ann pregnant. Her dad is threatening to kill me if I don't marry her. What should I do?"
"Join the army, son. It's what I did with your brother, bought me some time to think. And one other thing, always remember, son that, No man is an island entire of itself."
Dad would put his pipe back in to his mouth and go back to reading the evening paper as his son stood there dumbfounded wishing that the hippies with their dope fiend ways would hurry up and show up, so he could finally make sense of his dad's aphorisms.
Getting back to John Donne, like I said, this quote was everywhere touting the belief that we are all part of a gigantic earthly mass of love, material support, and happiness. I wished that somebody would have chased down the source and found out who it was that was pushing this idea so hard.
My bet has always been that it was a either a lineal descendant of Karl Marx, or the guy who drew Captain Peter "Wrongway" Peachfuzz (that fool couldn't find his own penis if he was holding in his left hand).
It started coming down right about the same time that the Vietnam was happening, the campuses across the country were erupting, the streets were alive with the sounds of fighting in the streets, young people started eating LSD and mushrooms in lieu of Cheerios, and all of us were seemingly expected to be dead set on becoming a piece of rock on one humungous Fantasy Island where having sex, using drugs, and listening rock and roll would be the order of the day.
And I have to admit that back in the day, I thought the guy who coined the phrase "sex, drugs, and rock and roll" had the combined wisdom of Einstein and the Founding Fathers, and that his face should be carved on Mt. Rushmore with his arm around Teddy Roosevelt. Now I think the only place that face should be replicated is tattooed on the ass of an arthritic donkey residing on the outskirts of Taos, New Mexico.
All we really got out of all that 60s and 70s' era craziness was a lousy damn t-shirt, tie-dyed, dirty and full of holes, with words stenciled with marker pen across the front, " I dropped, I drank, I smoked, I f**ked, and I danced...Now What?"
Looking back, it is starting to become more and more evident that something sinister was behind all of that craziness. Hell, our own government was dosing people with LSD. They were the probably the ones who manufactured the Orange Sunshine variety that the Manson Family loved. Papers have been declassified, and it's all out in the open now.
My parents were not the tiniest bit interested in raising me to be "a piece of a continent"; they were shooting for me to become an upstanding individual, an island, of sorts, but one that didn't hide behinds the skirts of the mother island, one who faced the storms and typhoons of life with stalwart courage and steadfastness, a model for other islands to copy.
The English author Aldous Huxley was writing on this very subject way back in the 1950s. He wrote a couple of famous books, one called The Brave New World, a dystopian look at world created in large part by modern man's unceasing love of pleasure and distraction, a world much like our own.
His other book was named The Doors of Perception, a book that anyone who fancied to be an intellectual back in the 60s and 70s was supposed to have read. It is a study of use of psychedelic drugs to enhance human consciousness.
In the beginning of that book, Huxley compared his experience under these drugs as an intensification of the sense of isolation that comes with existence. He said the following,
"We live together, we act, on, and react to, one another, but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena they are crucified alone."
He also said,
"We can pool information about experiences, but never the
experiences itself. From family to nation, every human group is
a society of islands."
What he was saying was that despite our greatest efforts to see ourselves as part of the ONE, the One that must exist in order for anything to exist at all, we will always fall short because of the fact we exist as ourselves we must be distinct from every thing else. Huxley further stated that all of our artistic and creative efforts to make ourselves appear meaningful are either pretentious and often comical attempts to duplicate the essence of being (which cannot be duplicated), or extremely poignant, illuminating and brilliant efforts to try and "capture a piece of Eden before the fall."
And why is this so important you might fairly ask. It is because of the influence that this "no man is an island" thinking of the 60s has had on modern culture. For example, I recently watched a car commercial trying to sell me a car while the Stones were playing Sympathy for the Devil in the background.
That particular song is an anthem for the existentialist, materialistic, life has no fucking meaning, bloodsucking vampire crowd. And to think that more than one person thought it was a great idea to build an ad campaign around the theme, "We are all going to die anyway, we might as well drive an Acura," kind of keeps me up at night.
The fact that most of the kids attending college nowadays would be far happier writing about the relationship issues of Khloe Kardashian with her baby's daddy than writing an essay about why humans are always trying to recreate the Garden in everything that we do, makes me want to drink more Scotch than I already do.
In John Donne's defense, I actually do believe he was trying to make the same point as Huxley did when Huxley stated that some seekers who are desperately trying to find answers,
"..may not practice contemplation in its fullest, but if they
practice it in its height, they will become conduits through
which some beneficent influence can flow out of that other
[transcendent] country into a world of darkened selves,
chronically dying for lack of it."
But back in the era where it seemed that every virtue signaling rogue was using Donne's quote as a way to show that he or she was woke, it's sentiment became attached to a group of often well meaning charlatans who thought that you could recreate a scale model of the universe and earthly paradise but believing all the while that there was no real purpose for doing so.
They were hell bent on building a cathedral on the marshy ground of the Everglades with Andy Warhol paintings instead of stain-glassed windows and then handing the keys over to black robed priests whose biggest effort to understand the divine order of all things consisted hitching a ride to San Francisco so they could take a short cut to enlightenment by attending one of Ken Kesey's Acid Tests.
They have played the phrase "No man is an island" over and over on loud speakers attached to telephone poles and subliminally hidden in every television commercial since. They continue to try to reverse the whole Garden of Eden story by packing God's bags and placing them at the gates and locking the door once they thought he was gone. God, the divine, the all-encompassing number One, kicked out of the gated community?
I suppose it is no use wondering what would make these people act so stupidly. And it's certainly no use trying to explain to them why their world view is so outright crazy.
They have been staring at the sunrise though the crescent moon cut-out on the outhouse door for so long that they associate everything new and beautiful with shit, they smell nothing but the odor of feces, and seem to be no longer capable of hearing anything but the incessant beat of an Acura ad campaign gone horribly, horribly wrong.