Tuesday, March 21, 2006

For Whom the Bell Tolls

The women mentioned in yesterdays posting made it through her medical procedure OK and since the subject of death is on the table here's more to contemplate.

“Wit, this HBO Films presentation chronicles the personal awakening of a longtime literary scholar* (two-time Oscar-winner Emma Thompson), who learns the importance of simple human kindness when faced with the most daunting of crises: a diagnosis of advanced cancer.”

I think Emma Thompson is wonderful in what ever she does and her part in the film Wit is no exception. One might think that the story of a woman undergoing aggressive treatment for cancer would be a sad one. After watching the film last week I was left both uplifted and stilled. It pointed out that illness, terminal illness, can transform into a gift that helps the heart to walk through the flapping door of death, with equanimity and humility.

*Interestingly the literary scholar portrayed in Wit was an expert on John Donne. His poem on death was skillfully woven into the story, I believe it was Death be not Proud that was quoted. Oh, and while looking around I see this, perhaps the best know of John Donne’s ‘Meditations’.

“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 to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (See here for the full work).

I think Donne would be quite at home with Indra's Net and the Buddhist teaching on interconnectivity and he certainly didn't shy away from mortality.