No Man is an Island
“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.” John Donne
Is the opacity of walls and doors an illusion that make us think that we are not connected to one another and that whatever goes on “behind closed doors” is not our business?
It seems to me that the world belief is just that, but are we kidding ourselves and is this belief necessary for us to justify the lack of support, charity and kindness that we should show to others?
Privacy is of course, a very important idea and a necessary one, but metaphorically speaking, if all the walls came crashing down, then it would be much more difficult for evil deeds to be inconspicuous.
*ALERT SPOILER AHEAD*
This concept reminds me of a movie with the very talented (in my view) Denzel Washington, The Book of Eli, a post-apocalyptic action tale portrays a world, which has now been turned into a wasteland 30 years after a nuclear apocalypse. Denzel Washington’s character, Eli, who happens to be blind, though not at all obvious, is carrying The Bible to a specific destination in order to save mankind. Along his journey, across demolished and ravaged lands he finds himself battling with villainous characters who try to thwart his success.
Gary Oldman’s character, Carnegie is set on taking The Bible from Eli because he has the understanding of its power and of course as most sinister thinkers do, he wants it for himself.
Though Eli wants peace, he finds himself consistently jeopardizing his life in order to protect the written words of God. It’s almost as if the movie indirectly asks the question, “How would we behave if all the walls came tumbling down and we were left to self govern and self -protect?” It might look like The Book of Eli and even some old westerns where there was no law to govern the people.
Evil has been around since the “so-called” fall of man, but in The Book of Eli the fight against evil portrays a more apparent and blatant external picture of wicked thoughts.
The goodness that Eli strives to accomplish in the midst of such depravation depicts how there are no more hiding places to shield evil. It is walking the streets, out in the open, threatening to capture and destroy Eli who has within his possession, the Holy Writ.
On a day to day basis for those of us who are striving, not only as Eli did to hold onto the holy word, but to live it, the battle in our own minds, homes, neighborhoods, governments, corporations, societies, and world seem to often emulate the same challenges that Eli faced by those who are working diligently to prevent us from practicing peace, love charity and the inclusive good for all.
Below are some of the alarming and startling statistics that substantiate the idea that though closed doors provide privacy and safety, they also harbor evil and mask abominable acts.
The Book of Eli, though a grotesque picture of how the world would look if left to the government of evil is an accurate projected picture of how wickedness in thought becomes manifested in deed.
To expose evil is to destroy it! To harbor it is a conspiracy against us all! In the gospel of John 3:20, John writes that “All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.” NLT
Today, there are television and news programs that have been in the “exposure” business as well as many charitable organizations and foundations aimed at uncovering malevolent, pernicious and inhumane acts, so If walls were transparent and we could see what may be going on that needs to be halted, then how much more involved would we be? With the statistics of what is taking place that we don’t see first hand that we would be face to face with, we would be hard pressed not to get involved.
Today, there are many ways in being beneficial to improve the conditions of our world without putting ourselves in harms way. After all, we are not all trained like Eli, but with constructive and peace-loving ways, from praying and blessing others, to donating to causes that fight for the rights of those who otherwise have no voice or no hope for escape on their own, to volunteering or to just learning to love more will be like a soothing balm, that seeps into the pores of all mankind.
Caring for ourselves must include caring for others if we want to experience a more peaceful and loving existence and leave a world that way for our children.
We read in 1 Corinthians 12:26 “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” ESV
To exist thinking that we do not effect one another, to think that we can be an island unto ourselves and block out what needs healing, is not only self serving, but delusional!
No man is an island nor can he separate himself from the rest of mankind even though he thinks he can in his own mind, for as Helen Keller said so profoundly, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
KJV-King James Bible
ESV-English Standard Version
I recall when I was a younger woman, my mom would insist that I do a monthly breast examination. She was adamant that I make it a regular habit to ensure that anything my body did not need was not manifesting.
Today, medical professionals encourage us to get regular physical examinations. This kind of prophylactic thinking is advocated in order to avoid having to deal with a more complicated problem later.
I agree with taking a proactive position when it comes to taking care of ourselves, but I also believe that this needs to be applied to our mental health, because without a healthy perspective and outlook we leave ourselves vulnerable to harmful manifestations.
An examination for the consciousness, one that x-rays our thinking, requires that we pay close attention to the thoughts upon which we choose to act. Employing thoughts that manifest health, joy, love and only good while refusing to entertain destructive ones, demands regular practice in order for excellent mental health to be reached.
More often than not, it seems easier to douse the below par thoughts with anesthetics of some kind, keeping them suppressed because the interior walls of consciousness seem to be too big to take down or too high to overcome. This oftentimes leads us to believe that it’s easier to continue to impersonate the prevaricator and harbor our heart’s desires. We become very good at lying even though we try to convince ourselves and others – especially others – that we are telling the truth; however, somewhere in the deep realms of consciousness we’re aware of the fiction that we’ve been projecting in hopes of diverting ourselves from the fate we seem to have been assigned. Eventually, we feel stuck because the idea of change appears to be unreachable. The weight and burdens of the millstone keep us from flight and manifest in most challenging ways.
I realize that being true to ourselves seems precarious, but the truth remains that the longer we wait to check our thoughts that lead to the unhealthy choices we make, the harder it seems to heal the adverse results. Choosing relationships, careers, where to live and everything else in between, will affect our peace of mind. So the question arises, why do we choose poorly? Maybe because we have a need to please others!
In order to heal this “disease to please” much courage, tenacity and strength are required. In fact, these three qualities need to be proportionate, one to the other, so one doesn’t take on this endeavor without wisdom or with blind courage.
The need to please others has led many into unhealthy relationships, and though we may even know that we need to forfeit them in order to regain health, we’re unwilling to let go of them due to the many fears that plague us of what letting go will lead to. The thoughts of letting go and moving on are oftentimes much harder to bear than remaining where you are.
Thoughts rise up in consciousness that if we change our minds and desire a higher road, a different journey, then we leave ourselves open to be harshly judged. Even the possibility of being cast out of our own families is at risk when we become true to ourselves. But it seems to me that the liabilities are far greater when we live to please others and continue to fake our own happiness.
Abraham Lincoln said, “It is my ambition and desire to so administer the affairs of the government while I remain president that if at the end I have lost every other friend on earth I shall at least have one friend remaining and that one shall be down inside me.”
We have a right, a right given to us by God, to be free from the fetters that incarcerate our hearts and remand our talents. But the tool needed to break these chains begins with challenging the fears that argues to us and taking gentle steps towards intrepidity.
Beyond the present horizon from which you stand are many opportunities waiting to be experienced, but mediocrity and undistinguished hearts will always yearn for greatness, even if one tries to keep it hidden from oneself.
Below is a list of some general questions I asked myself when I first took on this task of self-examination. I’ve found that it keeps me honest, not only with others, but most importantly with myself. I hope it will do the same for you!
If you answered honestly to those questions, you should be able to discover what needs to be handled and healed. If you feel as though you cannot do this by yourself, there are many ways of reaching out to get the help you need. You deserve to be free from those mental fetters!
Change isn’t easy, but often very necessary and eventually, unavoidable!
Change Part II
*ALERT SPOILER AHEAD*
Pleasantville is a fantasy comedy film based upon two teenagers who go back in time during the 1950’s where their more modern day mentality begins to effect and influence the mundane atmosphere in the town called Pleasantville. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120789/
This movie meant more to me than just a visit back in time to the way things used to be in the 1950’s. It offers a view of how resistant people can be to change and the division it creates when fear strikes at the heart of ordinariness.
Pleasantville was written, produced, and directed by Gary Ross. The film stars Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, J. T. Walsh, and Reese Witherspoon, with Don Knotts, Paul Walker, and Jane Kaczmarek in supporting roles. New Line Cinema released the movie here in the United States through Warner Bros. on October 23, 1998, but it still remains a favorite of mine as a useful reminder that change is inevitable, which opens up doors to newness and marvel.
Tobey Maguire’s character plays a teenage boy, who is quite satisfied with his mundane lifestyle even though he is very interested in one particular girl. His sister Jennifer, played by Reese Witherspoon, is more extroverted and likes her life just the way it is.
One night, Jennifer plans a meeting at her house with one of the more popular boys at school, because her mom has gone out of town, but her brother has a different idea. He plans on watching the marathon of “Pleasantville” his favorite show of which he has been preparing to enter a contest, but he ends up in a battle over the remote control with his sister as they fight over who gets the downstairs TV that night. This results in the remote getting thrown across the room. Jennifer becomes unraveled because the remote is broken and her date is due to arrive at any moment.
A TV repairman played by Don Knotts inadvertently, shows up at their house. Jennifer lets him in, but both teens are perplexed at the unexpected appearance of this man. Jennifer asks the man to “hurry-up” and fix the TV, so the man asks what the hurry is. Jennifer says it is because she has a date, but Bud explains it is the Pleasantville marathon he wants to watch. The man is happy to hear that Bud likes Pleasantville and begins asking him trivia questions about it and Bud not only gets all the answers correct, but he actually corrects the man on one answer.
The man gives the teens another remote that is quite unique and unusual. After he leaves, the teens once again fight over the remote and during the struggle, buttons are pushed. Instantly, they find themselves in black and white in Pleasantville, no longer David and Jennifer, but rather the TV characters, Bud and Mary-Sue Parker.
David and Jennifer are shocked and confused. The TV repairman is now on the TV in Pleasantville and very enthused that he finally found someone, David, who appreciates Pleasantville as much as he does, but David gets angry, questioning why the man did that to them. The man feels rejected and dismayed by David’s response to what he thought was a kind gesture to a fellow Pleasantville fan so he tells David he is leaving, that he needs to go “cool off.”
David tries to encourage him not to leave, but is unsuccessful.
Bud and Betty-Sue’s folks, played by Joan Allen as Betty and William Macey as George see the teens as their own children, so Bud reminds and encourages Betty-sue to stick to their roles until he figures out how to get them out of there. Mary-Sue, a.k.a. Jennifer is furious, frightened and very much resistant to the idea, but soon realizes that she has no other choice but to concede to Bud’s suggestion.
As the movie unfolds, Bud still keeps a very conservative role just as David did back home. Mary-Sue remains in her role, too and this will eventually shake-up the ultra-conservatism of Pleasantville.
Though Bud repeatedly reminds his sister that she needs to respect the values of Pleasantville, she has a different viewpoint, especially when she meets the boy that Mary-Sue dates, Skip Martin played by Paul Walker. She immediately is attracted to him and begins to plot a way to put the moves on him of which she has had much practice. Bud sees the look on her face that he ahs seen before and again reiterates that she needs to behave exactly how Mary-Sue would, but his words fall on deaf ears.
In the meantime, the TV repairman is now trying to get David and Jennifer out of Pleasantville because of the disruption going on. He reprimands David, reminding him that he thought David was a true Pleasantville fan, but he is acting like a traitor. David tries to calm down the TV repairman, but to no avail.
This impels David to pleads with his sister to stop changing things in the town, but she suggests that maybe the town needs changing.
In the meantime, Bill Johnson, the malt shop owner is waiting for Bud, who works at the shop, to get there and help make the food. Bud is late and Mr. Johnson is unsure what to do, so he just continues to wipe down the counter over and dover again. When Bud gets there he sees that Mr. Johnson is still cleaning the counter, in fact so much so, it has left a mark on the countertop. Bud interrupts Mr. Johnson and Mr. Johnson explains that he did not know what else to do without Bud. Bud tells him that it is okay for him to make the fries on his own. Mr. Johnson thanks him for that information.
That same night at the shop, Mr. Johnson tells Bud that there are no burgers and this time Bud thoroughly explains to Mr. Johnson that he is capable of making those, too.
This is the onset of Bill’s change.
He later stops over at Bud’s house and tells him that he was able to do the work at the shop, “all by himself.” He explains that he even changed the order of how he did his work and while Bud emboldens Bill’s actions, in the doorway enters Bud’s mother, Betty. She and Bill exchange greetings, intimating a an affection for one another.
In the interim, Betty-Sue has accomplished her goal of getting Skip to lover’s lane where he loses his virginity. On his way home he notices that a rose has a burst of color to it. He tells the basketball team at school of his experience and before long other students are at lover’s lane following suit.
Pleasantville begins to transform from black and white to color, which ignites fear in many of the townspeople.
During work at the malt shop, Bud finds Mr. Johnson huddled in a corner contemplating his life. Bud takes him to the storage room and asks him what the problem is and Mr. Johnson tells him that essentially his life doesn’t really have meaning, that everyday is the same. He says, “Grill the bun flip the meat melt the cheese. It never changes,” but when he closed the shop himself, “that was different” and he liked it. Bud, fearful and adamant, shouts out that Bills should “forget about that.” He goes on to tell Bill that jobs need to be done whether or not people like doing them, but Bill questions that. He goes on to reveal to Bud that he likes Christmas time, because he paints the ornaments, that he “looks forward to all year, but that it seems “silly… a awfully long time to be waiting for one moment.” Bud suggests that Mr. Johnson stop thinking about that and Mr. Johnson passively agrees.
Change is taking place all over town; the undefeated high school basketball team has lost a game. furniture stores are now selling full-size beds and Betty has decided to break her routine at home after she discovers that her womanhood is not confined to being a housewife. She is kind enough to leave prepared meals for George before she leaves him and even includes dessert, but this bold move not only disturbs her George, but he “demands” to know when she will return. Without answering him, she ventures off to Bill’s shop and she is not the only woman making these kinds of changes. With color is still bursting all around and the revisions occurring, more fear arises and ultimately there is a division in the community.
Bud comes to realize that Mr. Johnson now has a new way of thinking, so he is inspired to bring him a book on some of the greatest artists. This results in Bill painting a naked mural of Bud’s mom in vibrant colors on the window of his store.
Violence breaks out and the store is vandalized, so the leaders of the community call a meeting to find a resolve.
During this time, Betty-Sue is grappling with why she has not yet become colorized and tells her brother that she has had “ten times as much sex as the other girls,” but remain in black and white. Her brother explains that maybe it is not the sex. This idea leads Betty-sue to a higher concept of herself. She takes on a different attitude and begins reading books, leaving sexual activity in her past. This new behavior transforms her from pasty to vivid.
Bud recognizes that the pattern of complicity and monotonous lifestyles of the community in Pleasantville is inhibiting and confining, so he forfeits the old way of conservatism and embarks upon his own journey of change. This leads him to a brighter sense of self.
In the end, the town’s people all become in one accord and life moves past the boundaries of fear, judgment and tedium.
Going from black and white or a life with only two options may be a safer way to live, but without uniqueness, variation and diversification, we remain insipid and prosaic.
Life is more beautiful with color. Paint some in your world!
During one of my monthly visits to my hairdresser, we ended up conversing about cultural influences and traditions.
He’s a “southerner,” I’m from the Arabic culture, and my best friend, who was with me that day, is Italian.
There was woman in the salon who began talking to my best friend – well it was really more like flirting with him – and after she left, my hairdresser, Mr. Southerner, commented that it seemed as though she really liked Mr. Italian. I concurred and explained that wherever we go, he always seems to attract someone. Mr. Southerner said, “I can see why.”
I remarked, “God bless him,” referring to my best friend, and added that if my mom had been with us, she would’ve spit on him 3 times. That got inquiring minds interested and I was asked why she would’ve spit on him.
I explained that she would spit on him to chase away the devil, to ward off any “bad luck” from coming upon him and prevent any reversal of his good fortune, like a talisman.
From there, Mr. Italian went on to explain how in his culture when someone says “God bless you,” it’s in reference to sharing good fortune about someone. He gave the example of his mother bragging about her grandson’s (Mr. Italian’s nephew) musicianship. She kept saying, “God bless him” after each comment she made about him. “Your nephew is so talented, God bless him, and had such a great performance, God bless him, he continues to amaze us, God bless him.”
Mr. Southerner added that where he grew up in the south when someone said, “God bless you” it inferred a sympathetic expression. He gave examples such as, “Oh, dear. I’m so sorry you’re not well today. God bless you.” or, “Poor thing, she’s so homely. God bless her.” He joked that when someone said that to him he just knew something was wrong with him.
I said that’s better than being spat upon on by 12 adults in the living room because I was told I looked pretty in the dress I was wearing for Easter, and even worse when I had friends over and had to explain what the spitting was all about. (Not a great way to keep friends!)
As we laughed about how our cultures have influenced us, I mentioned the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” It explains pretty much how I grew up, especially how my mom carried around a pair of tweezers in her housedress pocket and would pull it out at random to tweeze any unsightly hairs on my chin. (Love you, mom!)
Mr. Italian shared that his parents still cover their furniture with vinyl, the chandelier and lamps could light up a cathedral and candles of all the patron saints made their house look like a monastery. He then asked if we ever got into trouble for throwing bread to a sibling when setting the table. I cracked up and said that I thought that only took place in my house. He explained that throwing bread was considered a “sin” in their house because it was disrespectful to Jesus!
Someone overheard that and asked if we were allowed to throw the bottle of wine or if that was also disrespectful because it represents Jesus’ blood. I said we didn’t drink wine, we drank Arak (Levantine alcoholic spirit in the anise family) but didn’t throw it. Mr. Italian said he never threw a bottle of wine because they drank them before they got to the table and Mr. Southerner said that in his household they only drank sweetened ice tea, which they never threw.
Cultural traditions are fun and in some cases very important and though they may fade from generation to generation they certainly make for interesting conversation!