“No man is an island” is coined from a notable poem by John Donne, written in 1684. He could understand the correlation between one man´s actions and the consequences for the rest of Mankind. This is underpinned in the quotation from his work, “Mediation 17”.
“All mankind is of one author and is one volume”. John Dunne is saying that man is not just the author of his destiny, but his actions affect many if not all others. It is thus my first intention to consider this fundamental statement and put the argument that: “No man is an island”.
“Man” has a long maturation period, that is, a child of 8 years is still semi dependant on their parents. This long dependence on parental support creates in “man” the need to love and be loved in other words to receive social interaction. “Man” now realises the folly of being seen in isolation. An example is pollution from the development of the western world which is warming the polar ice caps, which in turn is flooding the South Sea Islands.
“Man” is a psychosocial animal with a complex set of group behaviours. War is one way that has great cause and effect patterns and one which continues year after year. Modern communication developed from a defence strategy to prevent all the weapons in the U.S. A. being hit by the enemy, now it persuades us that we are all interacting with each other, with Global Communications. Music is a great tool for international communication and something which is getting easier to share and enjoy.
There are however philosophical arguments which conclude that man can and does on occasion choose to isolate himself. Hermits have existed throughout history. Some ancient tribes have chosen to spurn the modern world. Man can reject all this interdependence and still exist, ‘entire and to himself´ if he chooses to. Religion
The earliest writing known refer to religion, from Egyptian Gods onwards. Worship of the Sun and other natural forces show than man was aware of his relationship with the world around him, and was making efforts to control it. Many religions have holy books with sets of rules, showing acceptable behaviour and ways of living. An example of this is Judaism with its 10 commandments, later adopted by Christianity. These are all about not doing things which will cause misery to others. Buddhists are against killing any living thing, which relates to their strong belief in the after life, the smallest creature could be as important as an ancestor. The life we live today affects what happens to us after our death, it is all cause and effect. What one man does affects his own destiny, and can affect that of others.
Child & Family
When a human baby is born, he is very dependent on his mother for nourishment and protection. Once detached from his umbilical cord he needs 24 hour care for weeks, and for several years is dependant on his family. Humans are supported after birth for a longer period of time than any other animal. They do not need to walk for at least a year, and the need to survive has been substituted by the mental development and learning from parents, which in the developed world is extending long past the teenage years. Dependence is encouraged by the politicians, who decide that children under 18 years cannot claim benefit, they should live with their parents according to the “system” . If they want to go to university, their parent´s income is assessed to see what payments have to be made towards fees. It is very difficult for a young person to isolate himself in today´s British system.
Social interaction/ group behaviour
“Man” is a social animal and he understands increasing the cause and effect argument, not simply in the family, but in the wider world. Every country has laws which seek to maintain order and to keep every citizen a part of the “whole”. This limits them behaving as ‘Islands´ and demands a relationship with their fellow countrymen.
Every country has a relationship with other countries, which prevents it from being an isolated Island. Trading was an early reason for having a relationship with other communities, and as power and politics evolved, boundaries to countries were imposed, sometimes to encourage and sometimes to limit trading. Trading itself was a way of denying independence. What could be grown in one country was unavailable and in demand in another area. Resources such as metals needed to be traded and networks developed. Traders brought news from other countries, encouraging growth of education and learning of other peoples different ways of life. Wars were sometimes the result of trading and greed has fired wars such as the Gulf War in the living memory.
“Man” is essentially a tribal animal, he is protective of his own self and other tribal members. He will go to war both to protect his own Island and go to war to acquire other Islands because “man” is essentially an aggressive being, this has been fuelled by his global ambition on acquisition of land. Ultimate power is seen as ability to protect one´s own land and take others, examples of ultimate power mongers include Hitler, Napoleon and Genghis Khan.
Today, when Warring factions attempt to do evil in their own back yard, world powers may feel this vibration and act with force, as in Bosnia and African civil wars. In this example we see the pebble being dropped in a local pond but the ripples span on a global scale. The result of Hitler´s aggression on Poland had the effect of a World War affecting the whole planet. War in the 21st century has become encompassing between the super powers as war is globally threatening in a nuclear age as super powers have the ability to threaten and to defend. Global nuclear weapons held by superpowers are now so matched in power that each nation realises the consequences of pressing the button.
As research in to DNA unfolds it becomes clear that all living organisms are made of the same Basic Molecular Structure. Every living organism is linked to every other organism because they all have cells which contain DNA, the building blocks of life. The same DNA patterns are shared by all organisms, going down to the very basic structures such as yeast and bacteria. We are 99% identical in our DNA coding to chimpanzees. These similarities are enough for pigs to be capable of giving humans organs, such as the heart for transplants. Our similarities to our fellow man are enough for blood lines to be traced back through the generations, and ancestry proved over 100 generations. A man is no longer able to deny he is the father of a certain child, DNA testing can prove it beyond doubt. A few simple tests taking less than half an hour can correlate one person´s DNA to another. Other relationships can be proved or denied and the consequences can be life changing as anyone watching Gerry Springer would see! The tears and joy of extreme cases form part of public entertainment in today´s world.
Criminals can be convicted for life on simple pieces of hair and forensic science can place them at the scene of a crime. Cases can be proved by pollen DNA of a single plant. They cannot deny responsibility for their fellow man. Man can no longer deny that he is linked biologically, no only to fellow humans, but to every other living organism on the planet.
“Man´s”´ selfish drive to not pollute his own back yard has resulted in far reaching consequences. A new report suggests that climate change may have serious impacts on national water resources. This is the latest in a series of reports expected from the U.S. National Assessment predicts changes in runoff, rising sea levels, and increased risks of flooding. No “man” can be an Island when his breath of life is tainted by the winds of far-flung continents. Pollution mirrors “man´s” technological growth. It is this growth that has enabled him to understand the oneness between himself other “man” and his environment. Pollution dramatically underlines the notion of cause and effect.
Media & Communication
Just as war has exploded onto the face of the 20th century so has media in all its varied forms. It could be said the power of the media forbids any “man” to believe they are an Island. 24-hour television, satellite and Internet broadcasting have so shrunk that we all belong to the same global Island. It is the simultaneous communication and access to information that has expanded the mind of “man” and conceptually shrunk the planet. In many ways the whole world is connected, and all of man is part of this networking. Examples of this networking can be see in cellular telephones where no matter where you are in the world you are far from alone with mobile phones now able to access the internet, receive e-mail and be tracked to anywhere on the globe via global positioning satellites (G.P.S.).
It is the universality of music that has created a cultural union around the planet. “Man” has pushed back the frontiers of communication to allow a voice in the wilderness be heard 12,000 miles away. Music gives individual tribes and societies identification and because of global communication it has enabled them to share their musical origin with each other. Echoes of the past become the blue prints of the future. Outside influences
In understanding John Dunne´s metaphysical Island we must also understand factors outside are control which means we are kept connected to “the main”. These factors include the threat of nuclear weapons, Global warming and resulting flooding and pollution. The result of these is no matter how solitary and disassociated we are the constant effect of fellow “man” results in us never being a total Island Against
It is “man´s” remarkable uniqueness that can not only set him apart from fellow “man” but every other living organism. “Man” has exceptional capability that he can be self-contained in resource, thought and action. “Man” is uniquely versatile and above all other life forms he has evolved the ability of surviving isolation. “Man” has the power of free thought and to be his own island, shielding himself from any incursions from the mainstream existence. This is proved by the fact that some of the greatest thinkers who have pioneered new levels of consciousness have done this in total solitude. Rebellion “Man” is born with the ability of free will and by nature freethinking and so all “man” are able to break free from “the main”. “Man´s” attempts to extricate himself from the grip of power and “man´s” thought out decision-making. As free thinking individuals “man” is only linked by the genus of Homo sapiens, “man” has the ability to be “an entire of itself” although born social creatures “man” posses the ability to seek solitude, have free will and live life to none consequential ends. For as an individual “man” does not have to be linked to “the main” Cultural Islands It has to be said it is harder to be an island than a member of the mainstream society, but in my view it can be achieved in this modern age. Evidence of ancient tribal civilisations can support the theory that “man” can be an island. Notable among all surviving civilisations is the Australian Aborigines. Their language, art, music, tools and paintings are unique and they continue in part to tread the path of their stone age ancestors connected by an invisible umbilical cord to the womb of mother earth. The Aborigines often live 2,000 miles from the white “man´s” culture by choice. By choice, they remain afloat on the Island surrounded by the sea of westernisation. The Native Americans gain guidance and maturity in total solitude. It was an essential part of their initiation into manhood that the young brave walked alone for many days and nights in the mountains, with the stars as his guides and his dreams as his inspiration. Traces of Native American culture exist today and are recreated and in so doing separate once again this great culture from human kind. Conclusion In conclusion, there are two opinions to be discussed; one that no “man” is an island and two that yes “man” can be an island. I have spoken about “man´s” interrelationship with himself, others and the environment and indeed with the cosmos. “Man” above all other life forms has the ability to be an island or not to be an island. He has the free will to choose his own route and destiny. Enough examples exist to support both arguments and “man” does have the free will to chose. “Man” has the tools at his disposal to create a heaven or devise a hell. “Man” has the power to give birth to life or destroy. “Man” can flourish in groups and yet can stand alone with increasing will power and intent “man” can still be an island