www.whyville.net Mar 13, 2011 Weekly Issue

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No Man is an Island

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"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 friends 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." - An excerpt from "Meditation 17" by John Donne

Have you ever sat down and thought, really thought, about life? Birth, marriage, poverty . . . death? These are the things that really complicate and confuse us. These are the things that can bring us together or tear us apart. These are the things that identify us all as human. The question is, though: why, if we truly are all human, do we deny and put down one another? Why do we choose to hurt one another? Other humans who are just like we are.

There are many instances in our lives where we will witness a tragic event like bullying, war, kidnapping, etc. Humans hurting other humans. There are also many instances where we will partake in these activities ourselves, after having been hurt by another. Sometimes we may be acting blindly, and hurt somebody without thinking, but other times we plan and we plot. We want to make the other person suffer, no matter the cost, and nothing can get in our way until we are avenged.

Take for instance the character of Sweeney Todd, from one of Stephen Sondheim's broadway musicals. Sweeney had been wronged by the city's various authority figures, and had not one thing on his mind but revenge. In summary, by the end he had become so blind with that malice towards humanity that he ended up unintentionally hurting the ones he loved most, like his wife and almost his daughter. This musical greatly portrayed how awful revenge can be. One wrong doing can lead to another, and all will eventually lead to disaster.

Although inflicting hurt upon others is bad, there are times when we will be on the receiving end of the maltreatment. Often we will be made fun of, singled out in a negative fashion, mistreated by our very own. We all know that awful feeling, the sinking feeling you get in your stomach when somebody calls you a name, or that feeling of desolation and loneliness when you're singled out for being different. How does it feel to know that somebody will admit to hating you? That somebody is really just expressing what's been on their mind? That somebody took the time to plot revenge against you? It's a terrible feeling, and it's just as terrible for that person to have done any of those things.

So if we all know this infamous feeling of despair, of being hated, then why do we, ourselves, find the need to do wrong towards others? We know that person, our target for wrongdoing, is human; that he or she feels pain and suffering from our actions. We all share that humanity that brings us together, unites us as one. In the words of John Donne, we are all a part of one land mass, one continent. If a single piece of that continent suffers, we all suffer. If we lose a part of that continent, we lose a part of ourselves. So why, I ask, do we so often torment others? Why do we so often torment ourselves?


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