Wednesday, November 9, 2011
(John Donne, 1572-1631, the greatest of the
English Metaphysical poets)
Agape, or charity, is an act of the will. It involves an understanding of our common humanity, of the connections that bind all of us human beings. What happens to you, happens to me. Your suffering is my suffering.
In one of his Meditations, the poet John Donne explains the paradoxical character of this uniquely human vulnerability.
“Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbors. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did; for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough, that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current moneys, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it.”
from DEVOTIONS UPON EMERGENT OCCASIONS
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 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.