A Book Report on Thomas Merton’s “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 if 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 toknow for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee (Donne).
The above quotation by John Donne, that came out from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII, explains it all. No man is an island is a symbolism that simply depicts that no person exists and survives only for him- or herself. In as much as one individual aims for his or her specific goal in life, that mission is not separate but forms part of a whole picture and which is targeted at benefiting the entire mankind and not only to serve ones’ welfare. A person may not prosper upon his or her own more especially when that individual is separated from others. Donne has further stated that human beings are only of single author and quantity which means that one’s death does not results to his or her chapter being removed from the entire book of life. Instead, one’s life is interpreted into a better version wherein all its chapters should be looked into. The said Donne quote advances the notion that humans are not and should not be likened to islands which are separated among themselves. This is because the whole human race is interlinked and that the clear consciousness of fatality rate is the consequence and reality of life. Thus is likewise the same essence of the book “No Man is an Island” by Thomas Merton. With all its copyrighted versions, the Merton book is a true manifestation of Donne’s description of man’s life. Indeed, no man is an island for the reason that a person’s life is full of facets that need to be shared with others and comparing it with an island that is bounded by limits is next to impossible.
No Man is an Island, An Overview
No man is an island is a review of the attributes of man’s life that were told and recapitulated in a total of 16 essays and explored a person’s spirituality and characteristics. The Merton’s book covers man’s search for lasting beliefs, satisfaction and redemption. The book, written in an exciting and enthusiastic prose, simply tells of the several series of man’s life which deals with spiritual expressions and that will be useful in a person’s battle to live affluently, as well as in its entirety and with all dignity. It is an interpretation of man’s permanent beliefs, fulfillment and deliverance and more significantly of how an individual carries out the relation between his or her belief and spirituality. The book prides itself of utilizing not too many characters aside from the Almighty God and man. With regards to its setting, the book manifested that a person can communicate with God in all places and that the relationship between the two exceeds no boundary.
Aside from the main themes which dead with values and religion or spirituality, Merton presented equally significant subject matters for the purpose of the book, which is to instill positive attitudes, to materialize and reach the public. Additionally, the book’s themes are meant to emphasize the empowering worth of good traits and life attitudes that will enable a person to realize his or her strengths and weaknesses. In, effect, the book ultimately serves as a wake up call signaling that because of limitations, a person is created by God purposely to co-exist with other people. All these manifestations definitely lead to the main idea of the book that man indeed cannot live by himself or herself alone and that there is indeed a need for mankind to live and depend with each other since no one is an island. In the book, Merton has specifically written on several themes that are sure to uplift and enlighten human spirit and its connection with spirituality or religion. This is because centering life on God and all His teachings creates a scenario of good living that man really needs to share with others and not restrict to him- or herself.
Merton’s book transmitted other complicated but important themes such as love and human’s relationship with God as well as his or her connection with others and personal relation with himself and herself. With ease and almost perfect presentation, the author was able to stress and make the public realize the significance of opening and connecting oneself to the Creator, other human beings and with his or her own person. In so doing, the book has achieved its goal for people to realize their very purpose of living which is to exist and survive not by own self but with others.
No Man is an Island, A Manifestation
The book’s classic manifestation of spiritual love is its first essay which is relatively about unconditional love. The essay indicates human’s relationship with God and with other human beings as well as the reason why “love be kept only by being given away” (Merton 3). The succeeding chapters in the book, which dwell on “hope, conscience, freedom, and prayer” (14-24) and other God-related attributes are additional proofs of the importance of spirituality in man’s life. This is for the reason that all these God-centered manifestations serve as reminders of the necessity for people to value his or her relationship with the Creator as well as that with other individuals and lastly to himself of herself. The first two types of relationships are apparent inclinations that man cannot survive alone and needs to exist with other and depend on God’s power in meeting his or her goals in life. Simply put, God has not created man to live on his own but to co-exist with others in order for them to achieve the reasons of their existence in this world. In fact, these manifestations were depicted in such a way that people can recognize or acknowledge their limitations and eventually turn to others and ultimately to God just to be able to continue living happily and fruitfully in this world.
The book’s presentation of Merton’s ideas and materials on Christianity or spirituality, humanism as well as bilateral and unconditional love provide the readers food for thought and enlightenment. This effective and nearly perfect group of religious contemplations offers the public as good sense of blessedness and hope. This was manifested when Merton wrote “A happiness that is sought for ourselves alone can never be found: for a happiness that is diminished by being shared is not big enough to make us happy” (25). What Merton actually signifies is that an individual can only be able to get hold of love towards him- or herself, other people and God is when it is shared and given away to others unconditionally. More importantly, an intense love and happiness that is not kept within oneself and shared with others especially to God is the one that will never decrease. Instead, this kind of love will deepen more because it is given to others.
In stressing the above, the author further wrote that when people is inclined not to succeed in understanding intense happiness for the reason that human beings are captivated and fall prey to short-lived or temporary and superficial kinds of happiness. It is actually like when a person has understood what Merton aims to impart in this world. This is when a person has the profound love of God with him or her and other people—a love that is so intense and worth sharing that all other negative factors will cease to exist. In fact, starvation, suffering, and even death will have no place in a man’s world. This is for the reason that a person has experienced such an intense love and connection with others and God. This love is too influential, empowering, and worth sharing. Thus, keeping it to oneself would do nothing good. This also means that people under this condition need not be restricted within limitations. Since one can turn whatever blocks the way, a person can be able to feel and share love, thereby proceeding with the nature of con-existence (50).
The book has likewise effectively manifested another kind of affection which is selfish love when Merton said:
A selfish love seldom respects the rights of the beloved to be an autonomous person. Far from respecting the true being of another and granting his personality room to grow and expand in its own original way, this love seeks to keep him in subjection to ourselves. It insists that he conform himself to us, and it works in every possible way to make him do so. (30)
With this, the author has signified that while a person manifests independence when he or she offers selfish love, such kind is not what people really need; it is definitely in contrast to the essence of co-existence and what it means behind the idea of no man is an island. Thus, what people need is a selfless affection or love of God and others in order to achieve a sense of truthfulness to oneself. This is because the more a person takes advantage of God’s love and others’ affection, the less a person becomes himself or herself thus subjecting him or her within a specified boundaries (31).
It is truly hard to find a book that uplifts and empowers one’s spirit. No man is an island is one of the few books which have surpassed the boundaries or limitations of literary work in order to achieve true love and happiness. The Merton book has succeeded in effectively conveying to the people the significant value of sharing and co-existing with others and letting God rule one’s life. Ultimately, it is actually in this way that people can be able to realize that no one can indeed live on his or her own and that the very nature of existence is living and sharing your life and love with others and most importantly with the Creator.
Donne, John. “No Man is An Island.” Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation
XVII. Indiana State University. 18 June 2008
Merton, Thomas. No Man Is an Island. New York: The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani,