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No Man Is an Island

No Man is an Island

Hello, everyone.

Over fifty years ago, when I was in high school, at an all-school assembly, the mixed chorus sang a song that I have never forgotten.  I have no idea when the song was written, but it was written back when REAL music was being written and performed.  Here are the song’s lyrics.

No Man is an Island

No man is an island, no man stands alone

Each man’s joy is joy to me

Each man’s grief is my own

We need one another, so I will defend

Each man as my brother

Each man as my friend

No man is an island far out in the blue

We all look to One above

Who our strength doth renew

When I help my brother

Then I know that I plant the seeds

Of friends that will never die

I saw the people gather

I heard the music start

The song that they were singing

Is ringing in my heart

No man is an island, no man stands alone

Each man’s joy is joy to me

Each man’s grief is my own

We need one another, so I will defend

Each man as my brother

Each man as my friend

Beautiful, isn’t it?  The lyrics are based on a portion of the Eighteenth Meditation by John Donne.  Here is the relevant passage.

No man is an island

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 (1571-1631)

Here is a VERY brief snippet about Donne’s life from Wikipedia:

“He spent much of the money he inherited during and after his education on womanizing, literature, pastimes and travel. In 1601 Donne secretly married Anne Moore whom he had 12 children with.  In 1615 he became an Anglican priest although he didn’t want to take Anglican orders, he did so because King James persistently ordered it. In 1621, he was appointed the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. He also served as a member of parliament in 1601 and again in 1614.”

Information about the song is virtually unknown on the Net, at least according to Google.  However, after much searching, I was able to discover that the song was written by Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer.    I cannot find out WHEN it was written, but there were many art songs – religious and otherwise – written in the period 1880-1920, so I am assuming that the song was written in that 40-year period.

Over the years, I have had some VERY obscure songs get imprisoned in my mind, and efforts to find recordings of them were unsuccessful.  But after I started visiting YouTube – and getting some FLV software so I could download the videos – I have amassed an extremely eclectic collection of music videos of these songs as well as other songs that are better known.

I truly did not know if I would find any videos of “No Man Is an Island,” but when I did the YouTube search, there were many of them available.  I got 3 of them and decided that I had plenty.

There have been a lot of songs like “Island” written, and they have invariably made their homes in the Mainline Church.  The most recent one as far as I know is “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”  I have no idea how many times I have played that song during my musical career in the United Methodist Church.  I’ve played it countless times in my home church in Iowa, plus we used it in the Lay Witness Mission movement.  But I have NEVER played it in an Evangelical church.  NOT ONCE!!  It was exclusive to the Mainline Church, as I said above.

Why is this so?  Actually, the reason is very easy to see.  The lyrics to “Island” are up above; here, as best as I can recall, are the lyrics to “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin in me.

Let there be peace on earth,

The peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father,

Brothers all are we.

Let me walk with my brother

In perfect harmony.

Let there be peace on earth,

Let this be the moment now.

With every step I take,

Let this be my solemn vow:

To take each moment and live each moment

In peace eternally.

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin in me.

What a message!  But the Evangelicals do not like this song – or “No Man Is an Island.”  Why?  Because of the concept of the Universal Brotherhood of Man.  Remember the lines from “Island”?

We need one another, so I will defend

Each man as my brother

Each man as my friend

And from “Peace,”  With God as our Father, / Brothers all are we.

You aren’t a brother to an Evangelical unless you have a relationship with “Jesus” and are “saved.”  Once, when I was teaching at the Fundie high school, I asked the people in the church that we were required to attend if they would be my friends.  They weren’t interested.  Why not?  Because I was United Methodist, and they saw us Methodists as horns of the devil!

So much for brotherhood in their philosophy.

While in YouTube, on one of the video pages for “Island,” or another song whose title escapes me now, a YouTube user named omiolo1 said, “beautiful music like this draws me closer to my Maker!”  Me too.  And it should.  As one who worships the Supreme God and not Jesus, I am reminded that indeed we are not islands.  We human beings are in this life thing together.  Each of us has been dealt a hand of cards, and our calling in this life is to play that hand as best we can.  I once heard of a person who was sick and needed a blood transfusion.  But he refused the transfusion because he was afraid that he would have blood from a black person put into his body.  I don’t know what church – if any — this guy attended, but based on my life experiences, I have a pretty good idea.

I close with a true story.  In July, 1953, my grandmother and I visited my Uncle Bob, a minister in Oklahoma.  We got on the train to Kansas City to return home.   The only seat we could find was with a nice young Black soldier.  When the conductor came to take our tickets, he told us that we had to move; we couldn’t ride with the young Black guy.  My grandmother told him that that was stupid and that we were not going to move.  The conductor told us that deep down, he agreed with us, and that as soon as we crossed into Kansas, he would be back for our tickets.  We crossed into Kansas, and he came and took our tickets.  That noble gentleman allowed my grandmother and me to have a wonderful trip and a terrific conversation with one of the nicest people I have ever met.

As Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer stated so well, we all need each other, so I will defend each man as both a brother and friend.  And as the writer of “Peace” states it, with God being our father, brothers all are we.  Whether the Evangelicals like it or not!!

Have yourselves a good day today.




November 2, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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