By Jay Ayer
“No man is an island entire of itself.”
John Donne wrote those words as an opening to his poem ‘No Man is an Island.’ The poem serves as a representation of both our empathy for one another as humans and the one fate we all share: death. I mention the death and loss of people not to make people sad, but to remind everyone that we are all connected because that is what both of those concepts inherently do. The loss and accompanying fear of losing a person are the ultimate reminders of how close we are as people on this planet. One prevailing theme of Donne’s poem is that, as humans, we all share the same problems and the same experiences. I’m writing this article because the last year and a half has reminded me of Donne’s poem and, subsequently, reminded me of the importance of us as people. I have begun to notice the problems of those around me more than I notice the problems in my life, and, through my observations and experiences, I have seen how applicable Donne’s words are.
“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”
I said earlier that one of Donne’s points was that we share similar problems as humans. This point is the case because humans are empathetic creatures by nature, and when one person has a problem, we make his or her problem our problem. The past 18 months have shown me that this notion of empathy is true. In these months, I have seen people lose their loved ones and fear losing their loved ones. I am a human, a creature empathetic by nature, so I have felt these people’s feelings along with them. In these past 18 months, I have lost one friend to leukemia, one to cancer, and one to depression. In these cases, I had not spoken to that person for years or only briefly before their passing, but I know people who spoke to those friends practically every day. So, when these friends passed, not only did I cry for them, but I cried for the people around them. I cried for my loved ones who felt a loss greater than mine. I cried because each of those events reminded me of how one day I will lose someone close to me, and I was reminded of the importance of every human life. This importance is a concept that Donne addresses in his poem, as he implies that we are one continent as mankind. If any part of the continent disappears, then we are all affected. Just as the ocean eventually weathers away parts of a coastline, time takes its toll on mankind. As time ticks away, we must hold close what is important to us.
Now, as I said, my point here is not to sadden people but to remind everyone that we are all connected and all exist under the name of mankind. One person’s suffering relates to everyone because everyone endures some kind of suffering in their lives. John Donne wanted to remind us that we all suffer, and we all have problems. He wanted to emphasize that we are not just individuals but a species connected through emotional hardship. I want everyone to realize that the people in their lives are important because our time here is so brief, and the most important aspects of our lives are the connections we make with other people. I write this article now for reasons similar to Donne’s reasons for writing his poem. I want people to realize and value what they have now, but before what or who they have has disappeared forever.