John Donne’s words about the tolling of the bell are familiar to many. But I had never heard the quote’s background. Donne penned the words for a funeral in the 1500’s. Here is a the quote in context:
“All of mankind is of one author, and is one volume…
The bell that rings us to this church [today], calls not the preacher only, but the [whole] congregation…
The bell calls us all.
No man is an island, entire of itself… Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in all of mankind.
Therefore never ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
In this series of posts, we’ve been rethinking a traditional image of God, and thinking of God as the Soil in which we are rooted. It is a metaphor that evokes a spiritual framework in which we think of ourselves as always connected to Divine Source.
But it also helps us think differently about our connectedness to one another.
If God is the Dirt in which we are all rooted, we are in a very real way, connected to one another. Each rooted in God, we are rooted in everything; and as such, always in touch with everything similarly rooted along with us. Everything that emanates from the Divine; every person, every tree, and rock, and fish, and snail, and chimpanzee… is rooted in the Divine Life and Presence from which it was birthed.
We are connected! Everything is connected!
We are, each of us, rooted beside, and connected to, something lesser than us (snails, trees, rocks and rivers). We are, each of us, rooted beside, and always in touch with something commensurate with us (friends, family, the human family). We are all, each of us, always in touch with something greater than us (the Divine Transcendent).
As part of this connected ecosystem, we are always affecting something, and always being affected by something. We are always affecting our earth, our friends, our businesses, our loves. And in turn, we are always being affected by each of them. And more deeply, all of us are always being affected by the Divine Presence in which we exist.
Which brings us finally, to reinterpreting Psalm 137 as I said we would at the very beginning of this series of God-as-Dirt posts. Rather than a daunting Big Brother, looking over our lives with critical assessment, we begin to see that everything is connected. Our love affair with individualism comes under a pretty challenging critique. I’ll suggest that our sense that our lives are individual and private affairs is not the deepest or truest reality.