Embrace Both Extremes of Contradiction
No man is an island and good things come to those who wait. Bon Jovi said it, Hugh Grant in About a Boy said it, Merton said it. It is better that we save ourselves together in a bus than alone in a taxi. However this is an island age
Hugh Grant already said how we are behaving as humans at the beginning of the movie About a Boy (2002): In my opinion, all men are islands. And what’s more, this is the time to be one. This is an island age. A hundred years ago, for example, you had to depend on other people. No one had TV or CDs or DVDs or home espresso makers. As a matter of fact they didn’t have anything cool. Whereas now you can make yourself a little island paradise. With the right supplies, and more importantly the right attitude, you can become sun-drenched, tropical, a magnet for young Swedish tourists.
And he’s right!
But no one ever makes it alone as he learned before the movie ends quoting Jon Bon Jovi’s, Santa Fe song: They say that no man is an island and good things come to those who wait. I’ve learnt that from the Durer brothers, reading that story of unknown author many years ago that still delights me: No one — no one — ever makes it alone!
The greatest triumph is selflessly helping others to triumph. But we don’t want to, we can’t, or it doesn’t occur to us. On this depends that tiny, simplistic and banal matter that is salvation. When seen intuitively, a very simple thing. But when we analyze it, it turns into a complex tangle of paradoxes. Or so Merton said in No Man is an Island prologue:
We become ourselves by dying to ourselves.
We gain only what we give up, and if we give up everything we gain everything.
We cannot find ourselves within ourselves, but only in others, yet at the same time before we can go out to others we must first find ourselves.
We must forget ourselves in order to become truly conscious of who we are.
The best way to love ourselves is to love others, yet we cannot love others unless we love ourselves since it is written “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”.
But if we love ourselves in the wrong way, we become incapable of loving anybody else. And indeed when we love ourselves wrongly we hate ourselves; if we hate ourselves we cannot help hating others.
As for this finding of God, we cannot even look for him unless we have already found him, and we cannot find him unless he has first found us. We cannot begin to seek him without a special gift of his grace, yet if we wait for grace to move us, before beginning to seek him, we will probably never begin.
The only effective answer to the problem of salvation must therefore reach out to embrace both extremes of a contradiction at the same time.
After the movie life loop Hugh Grant as Will comes again and regurgitate his thoughts this way: Every man is an island. I stand by that. But clearly some men are island chains. Underneath, they are connected.