An island with trees on it by Nicki Wu on Unsplash
Photo by Nicki Wu on Unsplash

No man is an island” is an idiom that was taken from a 1642 sermon by John Donne, who was the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The full quote is as follows:

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 any manner 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.

John Donne

The way I understand that quote is that it means that humans need to rely on other humans in order to survive. For example, the food you ate today was grown by farmers, and picked by migrant workers. The food delivery you ordered for dinner was cooked by people who work in a restaurant, and was brought to your door by either a Lyft or Uber driver.

When you were a child, someone toilet trained you. That person may have been a parent, or a grandparent, or a daycare worker. Someone taught you how to brush your teeth, and tie your shoes. You learned the language you speak from your parents and other relatives. When you went to school, your teachers helped you learn the names of colors, and numbers, how to read and write, how to play a musical instrument and how to be a good teammate.

People get injured and need help from a variety of physicians. Some people, who have been through a trauma, can benefit from speaking with a psychologist or therapist. People who have become addicted to something often need help breaking it. They might go to meetings where they can talk with, learn from, and uplift other people who are experiencing the same addictions. Trying to fix these types of problems all by yourself typically does not work.

Nearly everything a person is able to do relies on help from other people. You might be a person that finds it easy to learn new skills or a second language. Even so, there are things that you simply aren’t good at, or haven’t been taught how to do. Your survival relies on assistance from other people – and their survival relies on your assistance.

You are not an island. You are not a small piece of land that is surrounded by water, unaffected by whatever happens in other places. You are a person whose decisions, choices, and actions affect other people, and who is affected by the decisions, choices, and actions of others.

For example, you might decide that you want to have your haircut. You make an appointment with a hair salon or barber. The person who cuts your hair earns some money from you, and you walk away with a nice, new haircut. The two of you have affected each other in a positive way. Both people benefit, and no one is harmed.

Unfortunately, one person’s decision could also cause a lot of harm to other people. For example, some people who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs might decide to drive their vehicle while in that state. This often results in car accidents, injuries, or death – not only for themselves, but also for whomever they crash into. There could be legal consequences for the inebriated driver.

Infectious diseases can quickly spread through a population of humans. The plague (also known as the Black Death) has been described as one of the deadliest diseases in human history. It was a devastating global epidemic that struck Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s. People who caught the plague died in horrific ways, and it was easily spread to others.

Physicians at the time lacked the antibiotics that we use today to cure the plague. One thing that did appear to work was to isolate people who had the plague, specifically sailors who were held on ships for 30 days (or 40 days). This is where the word “quarantine” comes from.

Today, as I am writing this blog post, there is another infectious disease that can quickly spread across a population of humans. The world lost a lot of people to death from COVID-19 before vaccines were available.

In some (of the richer) countries, certain groups were selected to be the first to receive the vaccines. This included elderly people, people with auto-immune diseases, and people who were fighting cancer. Later, the vaccines became available for other groups. At the time I am writing this blog post, children of certain ages are able to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

While it is still possible for a vaccinated, mask-wearing, person to catch COVID-19, their infection will be much less lethal than it will be for a person who chooses not to get vaccinated or to wear a mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that no vaccine is 100% effective at preventing illness. Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 can still happen – even to fully vaccinated people.

According to the CDC, there is evidence that vaccination makes the illness less severe for those who are vaccinated and still get sick from COVID-19. The risk of infection, hospitalization, and death are all much lower in vaccinated people compared to unvaccinated people.

Your actions (or lack of actions) affects other people, because you are not an island. This world would be a better place if more people were able to grasp that simple concept and be kinder and more compassionate to their fellow humans. We need each other.

You Are Not an Island is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.

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