Look at a typical modern nuclear family. They are self-sufficient; they do not need to co-operate with neighbours, relatives or friends to survive. Worse still, each member of the nuclear family lives in a technological bubble supplied with their own cell phone, earplugs, iPad, laptop, staring at personal T.V screens. Men are cut off from each other, their own true self and God.
However when a tragedy strikes, the trauma shakes everyone out of their individual igloos and suddenly there is a sense of a collective sharing of emotions. Everyone experiences and shares in the same sense of horror, pain and sadness. We discover that in fact that we are connected to our fellow-man, that no one is truly alone. There is a sense of solidarity in the face of a disaster. We need each other because the disaster has stripped away the façade that I am self-sufficient. Suddenly we feel vulnerable.
There was a folksong based on one of John Donne’s quotes, sung in the sixties and seventies that echoed these sentiments,
“No man is an island
No man stands alone
Each man’s joy is joy to me
Each man’s grief is my own.”
Using the same quotation as the title for his essays,Thomas Merton (Trappist, Contemplative Monk) in No Man is an Island said,
“Every other man is a piece of myself, for I am a part and a member of mankind.”
Therefore, no one can yell out in self-righteous indignation,
“What is this world coming to?. I am shocked, horrified by how that man acted.”
Society is not some vague, esoteric entity that cannot be changed. Real, living, breathing people make up society. They can decide to affect humanity by loving each other as much as they love themselves. Each personal act of kindness affects all of humanity just as each act of violence weakens the fabric of society and strikes at the core of each man. woman and child.