Originally published in the WFCF Newsletter, Vol. 8, No. 2, August 2014
The philosopher, John Donne, wrote a verse that many of us have heard:
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 with mankind. And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
I’d like to couple that comment with a quote from another philosopher, John E. Searles. Searles calls this observation,
THE MEANING OF LIFE
The meaning of life is to laugh, to live…but also, it is to matter, to mean something…to have it make some difference that you lived at all.
In many of the world’s cultures, especially in the cultures that are served by WFCF, just surviving from day to day is a struggle. A child in such cultures is, at first, another mouth to feed. And that “other mouth to feed” is expected to contribute to the wellbeing of the family and the community as soon as possible, at very early ages. If the child is handicapped in any way, the child is often orphaned and abandoned. This is because such children are seen as additional burdens and an economic drain on the family and the community in which the child lives. These children are discarded and unwanted. And in no way are they a candidate for adoption by other adults in the extended family or the community. What a terrible and agonizing experience and way of life for the child, the parents who had hoped for so much, and for all the members of the community who are, consequently, reminded of this tragedy every day of their lives! Every loving, caring, and compassionate human being is pained at even just the knowledge of this tragedy. By enhancing the quality of life for other persons, we enhance the quality of life for all of us on the planet. Yes, the quality of our own lives as well. NO MAN IS AN ISLAND.
We, each and every one of us, yes all of us, can and should help out—make a difference. Some of us can give a little of our financial resources, our time, our relevant knowledge, our pressure on governments to take corrective action. Some of us can give very large portions of our financial resources, our time, our relevant knowledge, our pressure on governments to take corrective action. When I was in my own very early teenage years a man once asked me, “How will you know if your life has been a success?” As a young teen, I thought of money, financial assets, and material possessions. That man said to me, “Your life has been a success if other persons are better off because you have lived.” That man was not John Searles, but I never forgot his message.
The meaning of life is to laugh, to live… but also, it is to matter, to mean something… to have it make some difference that you lived at all.