Multi-Cultural week is a tradition at the high school where I work, that celebrates diversity and promotes human connectedness. Each day of that week is dedicated to a theme and today’s theme happens to be ‘equality.’ On equality day, the campus is dressed in matching, or similar colored clothing to emphasize the oneness and connectedness of the human family. The sight of an ethnically diverse student body wearing the same colors reminded me of the following verse from John Donne’s Meditation XVII: “…all mankind is of one author and is one volume…“ Although John Donne, then dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, published this meditation in 1624, its message holds true today as it did back then, a testament to the power of the written word. Donne’s analogy of human connectedness portrayed as chapters within one volume, one book, authored by one God is nothing short of brilliant. Each one of us, a chapter, belongs to the whole one-volume of humanity and is as essential to the story as each and every other chapter. You cannot truly comprehend a book by skipping or eliminating chapters, tempting as that may be. And while some chapters are difficult and complex in nature; nevertheless, they are necessary for the story, our story, to unfold.
Today, in the microcosm of an urban high school, I watch the sea of teenagers drifting through the halls with white shirts and blue jeans, full of life, potential, laughter and chatter, and smile with the hope that this simple gesture is indeed an awakening; not only are we equal, but we are also interconnected. What does a twenty first century teenager have in common with an early seventeenth century poet? The answer, according to Donne, is simple, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
~Rula Kafity Kassicieh
Rula is currently the library media specialist at a public high school in Walnut Creek, CA. A lifelong learner, avid reader and part-time St. Bart’s parishioner.