Now This Bell, Tolling Softly for Another, Says to Me, You Must Die

We, in the twenty-first century, rarely hear church bells in our neighborhoods, if ever. Noise ordinances silence or reduce the volume of church bells, whether from century old bells or electronic surrogates. Typically, it’s a matter of neighborhood negotiation embodied in formal local ordinances or informal agreements; though, sometimes it rises to the federal courts where churches have found protection under the Constitution’s free exercise clause. However, these bells used to call us to consider higher things than our personal peace and affluence.

This post’s title is the title of Meditation #17 from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions by John Donne (1623.) Donne was touched by suffering and illness throughout his life. His meditation reflects his deep thinking on a topic that we desperately avoid, death. Researchers believe he had been penning this text while suffering from a deadly illness. The text says:

Perchance, he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and, [by some chance,] I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.

The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member.

And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

There was a contention (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled) [as to] which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is.

The bell does toll for him that thinks it does; and though it [discontinue for a time] again, yet from that minute that this occasion [worked] upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? But who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? But who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

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 [house] of thy friend’s or of your 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 you.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbors. Truly it [would be] an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and [few have] enough of it. No man has affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it and made fit for God by that affliction.

If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it.

Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

To encapsulate Donne’s sentiment, we can say, perhaps: “All mankind is of one Author, and is one volume… 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 you… If by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.”

I urge you, if you have not “made recourse to God,” please consider your own sinfulness and how it is that you must be saved. When the bell tolls, it does toll for you.

If you have made God your Lord and Savior, consider, whether in illness or in health, that when the bell tolls, it tolls for you as well.

Max Richter – On the Nature of Daylight, YouTube, May 1, 2012

The Guardian Personality

Roughly forty percent of all men and women are guardian personalities. They are solid, sensible, follow the rules even when no one is looking, move associatively from topic to topic in conversation, always on the lookout for rule breaking, humbly shoulder responsibilities “no matter what,” and suffer when unappreciated.

Guardians are dutiful, prepare for the worst, suffer bravely and patiently, catch and reprimand trespassers, and keep traditions, customs, and continuity with the past. They are helpmates as spouses, socializers as parents, and stabilizers as leaders. Presidents Washington, Bush (41), Truman, and Nixon possessed guardian personalities.

No doubt you know many that fit this description. The concerned citizens that attend town council meetings and staff polling places, the project manager who facilitates timely production, packing, and distribution, the police officer on the street who shields others from imminent danger, the loan official who goes the extra mile to get you affordable loan terms, and the long-suffering wife and mother next door with the truck driver husband and hellion son who sometimes shakes up the neighborhood.

Two weeks ago, we described the artisan personality. The guardian is another of the four personality types that’s important for writers to recognize and portray. David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me is a useful reference for writers who want to fully flesh out their characters.

Keirsey says Hippocrates and Galen observed that there are four personality types. Later scientists refined their observations by identifying four distinctions within each type.

Keirsey defines the guardian personality as concrete in their word use and cooperative in their tool use. They talk about what’s solid and sensible: commerce, household items, weather, recreation, news items and personalities. They believe that only by establishing and obeying rules and regulations can civil order be maintained.

Guardians fall into four subcategories, each containing approximately ten percent of the population. Two are characterized as monitoring: the expressive supervisor and the reserved inspector. The supervisor enforces standard operating procedures. In the home, it’s not enough that others do assigned duties, they must want to do them. The inspector works behind the scene on products and accounts, is watchful for irregularities from rules, and is simple and down-home.

The two other subtypes are conserving: expressive providers and reserved protectors. The provider furnishes others with life’s necessities, makes others part of their group, and is personable and talkative. The protector shields others from dirt and danger of this world, sees to others physical safety and security, and chats tirelessly with a close circle of friends.

Guardians regard companies and corporations as indispensable social institutions that enable them to earn their keep and provide for family. They feel responsible for the morality of their group, guarding right and wrong.

They give their all from a young age. Pain and suffering are unavoidable and must be faced bravely. They believe: “if anything can go wrong it will,” and prepare accordingly. They keep others in line. They are creatures of habit who faithfully follow routines. They value family and societal history.

They shoulder responsibilities “no matter what.” They feel: “if I don’t do it, who will,” and suffer when they’re unappreciated. They are obligated to do good deeds. But they may feel put upon if help isn’t offered (to be shooed away, of course). Receiving service is blow to their self-respect. Modest, unassuming, self-effacing, they crave respect and public recognition.

Concerned about homes, jobs, families, their neighborhood; duties and responsibilities; health, finances, how they dress, whether they’re on time. They worry too much about loved ones and society’s direction. They believe in hierarchical authority structures and are likely to believe in a supreme being. Since the world is going to hell in a handbasket, it’s the institutions that hold people accountable and teach values. They feel appreciated to the degree others are grateful for what they’ve done for them. It is galling when others take them for granted, but they believe responsibility far outweighs entitlement to gratitude. They desire the power to set things straight in light of right and wrong.

They’re ready to roll up their sleeves and work side-by-side with their spouse to build a comfortable, stable family life. Loyal and obligated to stand by their mate in times of trouble and help them straighten up and fly right. Guardians see to it that children are civilized, enculturated, in support of and in step with the community. They carefully administer what is done, how it is done, and who is to do it.

As we wrote in “Why Are There Four Gospel Accounts?” an earlier blog posting, these traits describe some peoples’ predispositions. Their experiences can mold them, as far as they are willing and able, so that they acquire attributes of the other personality types. These attributes in sum could be said to be their overall dispositions.

If you are a writer, I heartily recommend reading Keirsey’s book for yourself. I created detailed outlines for my personal use. You may profit from the same effort. We’ll review Keirsey’s take on the Idealist and Rational personality types in the next few weeks.

Truman - The Buck Stops Here

Former President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) at a president’s desk reproduction with foreground “The buck Stops Here” sign, ca. July 1959, Public Domain, Credit: Harry S. Truman Library & Museum