Posts Tagged ‘John Donne’

Celebrating the Violent Death of a Wicked Man

May 5, 2011

any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind

John Donne

My grandfather lived to be a hundred years old. He had a remarkable career in which he enriched the lives of thousands of people. In fact, he loved his job teaching Geology so much that he continued to go to work every day for over thirty years after he retired. He was a respected family man and a pillar of the community. None of us could reasonably ask for anything more out of life.

If every person’s death makes me smaller, then it would be natural to assume that the passing of a kind, decent, and noble man like my grandfather would represent the greatest type of loss for humanity.

However, I believe that, paradoxically, the opposite is true: A life squandered in pursuit of violent and vindictive hatred is a failure for all of humanity because, as Donne noted in his famous sermon, no man is an island.

I’m not saying this to scold people who exalt in the death of someone who has committed heinous crimes. This is perfectly natural and I am in no way superior to anyone who would cheer when a bad man gets a bullet to the head. I feel petty and vindictive impulses every day, which are usually directed towards those whom I love the most. That’s simply a function of having an ego.

Being human, the best that I can ever hope to achieve is pity for the wicked in the rag and bone shop of my crooked heart.

by Richard W. Bray