Sunday, 22 April 2012

Any Man's Death Diminishes Me

I was listening to Sam Roskams, a member of the Bahá’í Faith, on Good Morning Sunday this morning. I liked his ideas about the unity of the human race and that all religions are equally valid, but speaking to different times and places.  The fact that so many people still find the Torah, the Bible, the Koran, the sacred texts of Buddhists, Hindus and other faiths show that they have something to say to us today, although we need to be careful to separate the universal truths from ideas that were tied to a particular time and culture when people might not have understood some things as well as we do today. However, the ancients who first articulated many of the ideas found in these texts were very wise in some matters, wiser than many of us are today, and we should not dismiss everything they say.

Aled Jones, the presenter of Good Morning Sunday also had a Tibetan Buddhist, His Holiness The Gwalwang Drukpa, on his programme this morning. I was interested in hearing that his response to the vast amount of rubbish that is thrown away mindlessly was to organise his monks and nuns to participate on a Padyatra, or giant meditative litter pick cum pilgrimage lasting several weeks.

This all ties in beautifully with a line from "An Inspector Calls", the play by J. B. Priestley, which was on Radio 4 yesterday afternoon, in which Inspector Goole reminds the Birling family that their actions have consequences and that we are all more responsible for other people than we might think.

"An Inspector Calls" is about a girl whose life has become so wretched and desperate that she takes her life.  We learn that the father of the family had sacked a girl who may well have been her for asking for a pay rise, showing that employers who don't pay their workers enough to live on must take responsibility for the consequences their actions can have on their employees or ex-employees and the rest of society.

The daughter's and the mother's judgemental attitudes have also had serious repercussions and the son of the family and the daughter's fiancé have both had a role to play in the girl's downfall as they had both used her for their own sexual gratification.

Today more than ever John Donne's words, 'No man is an island' hold true:
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 a manor 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. 
Today we also know that even simple choices about the food and clothes we buy can be a matter of life and death for people on the other side of the world and using more than our fair share of the world's resources means someone somewhere in the world has to do without as a result. We also need to be aware of how much carbon dioxide our activities create as we learn that this substance we cannot see could well be responsible for droughts, severe storms and other drastic changes in the climate in other parts of the world. Speaking hatefully or even disrespectfully about a person who has a different faith from our own or whose race or sexual orientation is different from ours can also have devastating consequences that we might not have intended or foreseen. We all need to think more before we speak as well as before we act.

We could all benefit from practising mindfulness on a daily basis, considering the consequences of our actions and finding better ways to do things so that we might harm this planet and the people on it less than we do at present and learn to be more compassionate and considerate as the major world faiths teach.

I shall leave you with the words of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa

“Unless the minds of the people change and all of us learn to improve our inner being and understanding, a few of us will keep cleaning the environment and it will never be clean. A lot of education and activities need to be done not only by us but by everyone in this world so that we all can contribute to make this world better, greener and happier.”


  1. What a coincidence. Last night, at a pop up restaurant in our local church, I sat next to a Baha'i follower. He was one of the loveliest people I have met - charming, intelligent and fascinating to talk to. I had some knowledge of the Baha'i faith but he was able to explain it greater detail. I was particularly impressed by the universality of Baha'ism and its practical aspects. I appears that it is not enough to believe, you have to act on it. I hope to meet him again and discuss it further.

    Mindfulness is another concept I've been meaning to explore, ever since watching Peter Owen Jones' Around the World in 80 Faiths. Thanks for recommending Thich Nhat Hanh's book. I've reserved it at my local library and will let you know what I make of it once I've had a chance to read it.

    I'm entirely with you on the need to be aware of everything we do and how it affects everyone else. But it's not easy.

  2. I hope you find the book helpful, Gai. I've been reminded myself of how important mindfulness is and the need to try harder to incorporate it into my everyday life. You're right, it isn't easy. I see it as a journey towards being more mindful; something to aim for rather than something I can expect to master instantly.

  3. We have you to thank for introducing us to Thich Nhat Hanh last year & we love watching his videos on youtube - he really is an inspiration.

    We really try to be mindful in everything we do, but will definitely try & see if we can get this book from our library too!

    Thank you.

    Kay :)

  4. I'm glad you've found T N H an inspiration, Kay. I hope your library has the book. :-)


All relevant comments to this post are welcome, so feel free to have your say.