“‘NO MAN IS AN Island,’ Dr. Donne wrote,‘intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.’ Or to use another metaphor, humanity is like an enormous spider web, so that if you touch it anywhere, you set the whole thing trembling.” ~ Frederick Buechner
I have always liked this quote by John Donne. I reminds me that we are all connected to each other. We all have the image of God within us; we are his creation—his children—even if we have no clue. If something happens to one of us, in some mystical way, it happens to all of us. When I read this meditation by Frederick Buechner, I felt the trembling.
We have trembled much recently. I hardly know where to start – maybe a police standoff in our own backyards with a man who had barricaded himself in the home of his parents, or weird things happening with shattered windshields on the interstate. At least one person’s side car window was shot out and she was injured. Two other people, just wandering around, were shot and killed. There is flooding. We have only to watch the news, or read it, to know that things are not as they should be. And then, yesterday, the tragedy of a shooting inside a church in South Carolina where nine people were killed. This whole meditation could be bad news. This does not look like the Kingdom of God, does it? Yet, Jesus tells us that it is here among us and within us.
The trembling is almost like an earthquake. Sometimes, I am afraid and maybe you are too, but we can’t live our lives in fear. We’re overwhelmed and, often, we don’t even know where to start in spreading the kingdom. I know what we don’t do. We don’t fall victim to hate and fear. We can’t. Frederick Buechner also says, “Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.”
Many of the blogs, notes, letters, and Facebook posts, today, remind us that the only answer we have is Jesus – the love of Jesus that is for us and for everyone. We don’t respond with hate or revenge, but most of us don’t really think we can make much of a difference in what happens on the big scale. Many of us are not called to do huge things to make that difference, but Jesus calls us all to compassion and forgiveness. He tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. He tells us to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us. This is something we can all do. In case you start to believe that this is entirely too simple for what we are facing in our country, Mother Teresa said, “Peace begins with a smile.” That’s pretty easy. It’s a start. Then the trembling we feel will be that of Love.