No Man Is an Island – John Donne, 1624
The Solstice Holidays are a time for us to pause and think about who we are, our purpose on earth, and where we reside in the universe of religious tradition, family, and material wellbeing.
The word “community” has changed greatly in my long lifetime. My parents and grandparents lived out their lives in their towns. Rare trips were made to see a distant relative or to fight wars overseas but we mostly stayed where we grew up.
By the age of twenty, my own children had travelled far and wide. Many young people are migrating away from small communities into cities. Millennial communities are global and digital. To the young, our tired racial and gender biases are artifacts of our provincialism. Today, 250 million people are in flight, seeking peace and the slightest opportunity to prosper. The world is in constant motion while we at home are in turmoil.
There are those among us who deny a larger sense of community and imagine themselves as sole proprietors of their families with absolute rights to carry guns, own property, evade taxes, and conduct business. They extol the “Founders” and “God-given” rights they neither understand nor follow and ignore the very principles that protect their right to dissociate themselves from those not of their race, religion or customs.
For centuries, religious and spiritual traditions around the world have brought light into the cold and dark of the Winter Solstice season. It’s a time for each of us to rethink the equilibrium that balances the individual freedoms we cherish and the communities that sustain us.
In 1624, John Donne wrote, “No man is an Island…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.” We are at once alone and together in this difficult world and finding that equilibrium is our spiritual task.
This holiday, it would be good to reimagine how we might live together on a shrinking earth. We are a rich amalgam of races, cultures, religions, traditions and arts. Our economies are nourished by newcomers with new ideas and enterprises. We fuel our economy with people willing to milk our cows and pick our fruit while we argue among ourselves about whether to let them join our communities.
We are not by nature an exclusionary people. This holiday season I hope we’ll rethink our place in the world and better understand what community means.
Happy Holidays, Gentleness and Courage in the New Year
Bill Schubart’s descended from three immigrant families: one German-Jewish, one English-Dutch and another French-Canadian.