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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Monday, May 29, 2006

Remembering Mr. Bowers

I know enough biology to survive most conversations. The terms I don’t normally use come back to me in a pinch—like when I’m helping a kid study. I credit this recollection to Mr. Bowers, my tenth grade biology teacher. I don’t mean to imply that my other science teachers taught me nothing. I’m only saying that I can’t remember their spoken words—coming from their mouths—the way I do Mr. Bowers'.

By the time I stepped into his classroom in 1971, he was nearing retirement and comfortably overweight; his face had grown around his eye glasses so that they left Play-Doh imprints on his nose and temples when he took them off.

He did not dress like the young, popular teachers and yet he fell far short of being quaint. He lacked the classical charm of Mr. Chips; the passion of Robyn Williams in Dead Poets Society; the blind idealism of Kevin Kline in The Emperor's Club; and there was no opus waiting to be performed for him. In fact, if there is any movie character that hints at Mr. Bowers' lecturing style it’s Ben Stein’s “Mr. Anyone-anyone” in Ferris Bueller's Day Off—except in one regard….

Mr. Bowers' resonant voice kept me alert in his class. I had heard about it from my brother Dave back in ‘69. Dave is an impromptu impressionist—not of famous personalities—but real-life caricatures from the stage of our small world. He used to study for biology tests in our bedroom by imitating Mr. Bowers. By the time I actually sat in room 206 of Carl Brablec High School, I felt I knew him.

I soon learned that Dave’s impersonations were kindly accurate. Mr. Bowers' mere utterance of biology terms gave them a life of their own. My all-time favorite was endoplasmic reticulum. What a great term. No matter what it means (and yes I do know what it means), it's a great word to say if you want to sound intelligent—like a doctor: "I'm sorry Ma'am, but your son has acute infection of the endoplasmic reticulum. It's serious but treatable." Or a mechanic: "Start 'er up, Sir. Yep, that noise is fer sure yer endoplasmic reticulum. I can order a new one fer 'bout eighty bucks." Or a maestro: "Now for our last number of the evening, we invite you to follow along in the program on page 4, Tchaikovsky's Endoplasmic Reticulum in D minor.

Let's face it endoplasmic reticulum is probably the best "utility player" in the lineup of multi-syllabic science terms. As impressive as that fact is, the word never sounded better than when it came out of Mr. Bowers' mouth with the smooth grace of a lava lamp: endo…plas…mic…re..tic...u…lum. He clearly relished each syllable and loved finding ways to help us learn and remember his pet words.

Not every science term stuck with me as well as my favorite. I was taking a test on amphibians and still had one question left when the bell rang. The classroom emptied as I remained seated at a black lab table in the second row tapping a pen against my head. Mr. Bowers pulled up the chair beside me. “What are you stuck on, Tom?”
“This two-word answer for the external "ear drum" on both sides of a frog's head.”
“I’m sure you know this answer, Tom. It's two words but five syllables. What’s on the inside of the frog’s skull?” he asked.
“His brain?” I winced uncertainly.
“Exactly right. ReMEMber that "brain" is the last syllable of this answer. Now do you remember the first word of the answer?”
I felt really bad for him because I could tell this was a bonehead clue that should have helped me, but I was still clueless, so he gave be bonehead clue number two.
“Tom, what do we call the big copper-colored Drums in the band?”
“Oh, I know that. Kettle drums, but Kettle drum is two words.”
“Well, they do call them kettle drums sometimes, but their real name starts with a ‘T.’ Have you ever seen The Music Man and heard the song '76 Trombones’?” I nodded. “Think about the description of that parade. What comes after “There were copper-bottom_______?”

The trouble with my learning facts with songs is that I have to start from the beginning no matter where the needed fact is. I still have this issue with the alphabet song. So I started singing "Seventy-six trombones" in my head and finally got to, “There were copper bottom tympani in horse platoons /Thundering, thundering, all along the way.”

“That’s it, Tom—tympani! The frog’s eardrum is just like a little tympani about the size of my shirt button. So what’s the answer?”

He had gently pulled the chain on the attic light and hoped that the bulb would stay lit. Fortunately it did, and I remembered the term from some forgotten lecture:
“Tympanic membrane,” I blurted like a Jeopardy champ.
"Right it down and remember it," laughed Mr. Bowers.

I don’t remember what I got on that test, but I’ve never forgotten tympanic membrane and the fact that my science teacher took a minute to teach a left-brain fact from a right-brain angle.

Twenty years later I tried the same thing with a struggling student of mine. He was at risk of failing British Literature and came up to my desk stumped on a fill-in-the-blank question reading: "What was the name of Shakespeare's theater?"

"Can you give me a hint?" he mumbled hoping his classmates wouldn't hear.

I immediately remembered Mr. Bowers, and without hesitation I touched the GLOBE that sat on the corner of my desk.

"I'm not sure I can give you a hint," I said with a knowing look.
"Please, I know I know this but my mind is blank."
I spun the GLOBE this time, glared at it wide-eyed and said, "Think about it a minute."
His face scrunched. "Arrrre... you giving me a hint?"
"No. I'm just spinning this GLOBE." A light went on in his head.
"Oh... I get it." he whispered, "Thanks, Mr. K."
He wrote down his answer and turned in his test. The fresh ink screamed out: "The World Stage."
I got his attention and quietly motioned him back to my desk.
"I touched the GLOBE. I spun the GLOBE. I said the word GLOBE. Why did you write 'WORLD'?"

Because Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."
My jaw dropped. I was amazed.
"That quotation is not on this test." I said.
"I know, but it's a cool quote."
"I'm impressed, and I do believe you've hit upon the reason he called his theater by this name, but the word you're looking for is not world." I looked again at the globe.
"Oh, yeah, the GLOBE Theater," he smiled.
"Right it down and remember it," I laughed.

I know there are fine teachers who would disagree strongly with how I got "tympanic membrane" right in '71 and how my student got "Globe Theatre" right in '91. All I know is I vividly remember both moments in the more than 2.5 million classroom minutes of my career as a student and teacher. There's something to be said for that. Teachable moments are far more important than the teachable facts that cause them.

At the end of that '71-72 school year, Mr. Bowers told us he would not be returning the next year—he was retiring to his home in Armada, Michigan, home of the "true county fair," he so often promoted. What he did not tell us in his farewell was that he had cancer and had been battling it for some time. None of us knew, but I have to think his secret played a small part in the avuncular care he showed me that year.

The summer flew by, and on the first day of school,  we were told over the PA system that Mr. Bowers had passed away. The funeral had come and gone the week before. No students knew and none attended.

Thank you, Mr. Bowers. I had reason to remember you again this week, and a struggling student (whose parents and grandparents are the age of your former pupils) benefited this week from that lesson you taught me thirty-five years ago .

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Destin is Deep South

It may sound obvious, but the Florida panhandle is “down south.” We know Florida is the southern-most of all the states, but it’s also the least “southern” in many ways due to “snow birds” and other demographic influences in the most heavily populated metro areas. The population of Orlando, for instance, on any given day is likely to include all 50 states and as many foreign countries. Further south, Miami-Dade County is known for its diversity; it has many accents Cuban, Manhattan,Yiddish, etc., but “southern accents” (if any) are not local. They are here in Destin.

The lady we’re renting from has a beautiful southern accent. Whenever she calls, we know it’s her within three words: “How y’all doin’?” Monday morning I heard a roofer over the fence whose inflections sounded like “Harrell,” my college roommate from Macon, Georgia. He was a great character with a classic accent and fantastic sense of humor. Hearing “his voice” again was when I first realized we were down south.

I was visiting with a local businessman today who laughed with a drawl and informed me that “The Emerald Coast” has two other knick-names: The short one is “L.A.” which stands for “Lower Alabama;” but it's even better known as “The Redneck Riviera.” Most of the clientele comes from nearby Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The band we heard tonight came from Tennessee. Perhaps this explains the contagious “laid back” spirit here. That’s one of the reasons it’s great for a trip like this for the seniors. They've all given it thumbs up for future classes.

This same businessmen also explained that much of Destin's economic development and construction is actually “reconstruction” from the aftermath of last year’s devastating hurricane season. Coastal business in Destin completely shuts down a few times a year due to hurricanes. (Destin is directly north of the eye of Katrina in this photo, but as we all know, it eventually tracked a direct hit on New Orleans.)

Destin folks are nervous because hurricane season starts in two weeks. He told us Hurricane Katrina (while not direct hit on August 29, 2005) washed away about 100 feet of the beach that our students have walked along each day (. (Photo to right is our beach during that storm. Photo at top shows narrower beaches after the storm.) Some of the large condos and hotels lost their seaside swimming pools into the gulf during Katrina (even though the eye was over 100 miles away). It’s still beautiful, but it will take years to rebuild the white sands of the shoreline.

This talk of hurricanes helps us appreciate Michigan’s subdued West Coast—if only we could do something about those frost advisories in late May! Our school families are hoping we bring this perfect weather with us when we return home tomorrow. We'll do our best.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dest"in Loco Parentis"

Thoughts on Sponsoring Senior Trips

It’s Tuesday morning—10:00 AM Central Time. The sponsors have been up for a few hours, starting breakfast, skimming the pool, vacuuming, etc. The first senior got up about an hour ago. Only half are up now. (I’m guessing they’re the ones who went to bed the earliest.) We’re trying hard to let time pass as if there’s no agenda and no clock while we’re here. About half the group was still up or in the pool till 2:00 A.M. (I'm now sitting at the pool as I type.)

Because this vacation home has neighbors, I asked our seniors to be as quiet as they would if they had snuck into some strang millionaire’s pool and dared not wake him or his hounds, which probably added a little fun to the swimming. ”Stolen waters are sweet…” as Proverbs 9:17 says. The kids don’t know it, but each night I lay awake till all are in bed. As a parent, I’m used to that role.

My wife and I have been sponsors on Senior Trips every few years for twenty-two years. Our first was with the Class of '84 to St. Louis. Each of our half-dozen Senior Trips was with a group of great kids, so it’s not much different than being a parent on high alert. If any seniors (past or present) are reading this, please forgive my use of “kids” just now, but seniors are still kids in that most do not yet have the experiences that cause parents to be proactive and protective. Kid's tend to think in terms of “wouldn't it be cool if...” but adults project ahead to a dozen other "what ifs" that aren't so cool at all. Common Law calls it in loco parentis, meaning "parents gone crazy"—not really. Actually it means “in the place of parents.” This sort of oversight isn’t about “not trusting” kids (though teens often play the “trust card" when they want to do something against their parent's better judgment).

TRUST is very involved in supervision. But the earned trust we put in people can never negate other realities that we can trust to be true: We can trust that Satan wants to fill the void reserved for God with other things; we can trust that in this depraved world there are those who equate innocence with opportunity; we can count on the fact that bad choices usually take us further than we plan to go and keep us longer than we plan to stay. Ideas have consequences. As young people show an understanding of these things, the trust factor becomes more and more credible.

The challenge of parenting teens on the cusp of adulthood is finding a balance between personal “trust” and all the other things we know are true. This balance first calls for the illusion of letting go, providing a sense of choice and independence while discreetly standing by to look out for their best interest. We interact and keep the tie that binds secure while providing ever-broadening boundaries. We share the path a while, then provide direction, but eventually the path of parenting requires staying behind at some fork in the road and watching from afar.

Graduation is one of those “letting go” forks in the road. The realization may not kick in for a few weeks or months. On trips like this, a week before graduation, the boundaries are still clearly in place. Freedoms are ample and earned until proven otherwise, and they are thereby exercised with maturity and respect. During the trip, the good of the group is put ahead of the individual. If they leave our little paradise compound, it's in groups (and they sign out). Probably not all of our parents agree with this approach, but most appreciate it, and best yet the kids recognize this small responsibility as part of the "freedom" of being here.

For the sponsors, it's like having a family of 20 kids the same age. (It helps that the guy-girl relationships are more like brothers and sisters than anything else.) We help with the hard parts—like finding lost wallets, keeping track of airplane tickets, smoothing out issues with airport security, serving as sun-screen police, band-aid providers, cooks, head-counters, peace-makers, shuttle-van drivers, and solvers of whatever other difficulties this trip still holds (—you know the routine, especially if you're a parent). But when we're less needed, we try to blend into the background.

It's cool when the students draw us in (e.g. when they run up to share their "finds" at the beach or mall). That's when we know the balance between being seen as fuddy-duds and friends is working, and we're one step closer to the future relationship we'll share with them as young adults. We've watched how it works through the years, and it's the most rewarding aspect of overseeing such trips.

I don’t mind staying up till 2:00AM, lying awake listening to the lively banter and occasionally walking about like a friendly insomniac. Even so, I relish the moment when everyone has called it a night. Then like some yawning gnome, I make my final rounds, checking doors, turning off forgotten lamps, listening one last time for signs of life, and then crawling in bed for good to catch a few hours of sleep myself.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Destin To Be

Anyone who reads here knows I’m capable of typos, but this title is not one of them. I am writing from Destin, Florida. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either until a few years ago when the Class of ’03 came here for their Senior Trip. This year, we brought the Class of ‘06. It's not called The Emerald Coast for nothing——white beaches and balmy breezes to boot. (Today is in the mid 80’s.)

We’re staying in a 7-bedroom/ 5-bath house. It’s about 10:00 PM and a small group is down on the beach hunting crab with flashlights, plastic buckets, shovels, and a net. One of our guys just finished a year in culinary arts, and they’re actually talking about eating their catch. Something tells me that’s not a good idea. These aren’t Alaskan King Crabs; they’re beady-eyed crustaceans that mechanically comb the beach at night nibbling at their findings the way monkeys do while grooming each other’s backs.

Hark! I hear a hubbub at the pool-side door. The safari has returned (even as I type) with buckets full of peeved crabs pinching plastic shovels. Lots of camera flashes and proud smiles. The sportsmen (and woman) release the catch. No more talk of eating them. What a great group of kids we're traveling with! They know how to have fun and deepen friendships.

But I was telling you about Destin, which by the way, does seem destined to become another well-know destination in Florida. Probably never as famous as Daytona, West Palm Beach and the like, but it was recently named one of the fastest developing spots in the country and is likely to become the next sun Mecca on the Gulf. It’s located just east of Pensacola and a thousand miles directly south of our home in West Michigan (where there was a “frost advisory” Saturday night).

Since Muskegon is in the Eastern Time Zone, we were surprised Destin is in the Central, but the time line here is just east of us extending down from the Alabama-Georgia border and dividing the Florida Panhandle with a longitudinal a line between Chattahoochee and Apalachicola. Can you imagine the confusion this causes for the folks who live between Wewahitchka and Sopchoppy? (As if life wasn’t confusing enough for them without time-zone issues.)

This, in fact, is the real reason Destin has a bright future. Its name is very marketable. Better yet, tourists can say it without holding their front teeth in place with their thumb. The other names nearby have us all cornfused. Yesterday, I was sitting on a café deck overlooking Choctawathee Bay (on the north side of Destin's peninsula) and I overheard a guy from Wewahitchka Community College and a kid from Sopchoppy Middle School reminiscing about field trips to Okeechobee Swamp.

See what I mean? Not that Michigan doesn’t have it’s share of American Indian names like Gitchigumi, but most of ours have been made melodically memorable by the likes of Lightfoot and Longfellow. When we were little, my mom used to tickle us in bed and say, “I’m gunna get you, my little Hoochikaloochie.” I didn’t know it then, but after two days in Florida's Panhandle, I’d lay odds that Hoochikaloochie is the name of a town down here. No doubt about it, this place is Destin to be

Friday, May 12, 2006

Present Tense

The day is a drizzle of sky and gray,
so chilly there’s no need
to crack the window as I stay
inside the car to write or read
while the girls shop. I’m staring
presently at a lone seagull
that has lost either his bearing
or his taste, content to cull
the damp debris for who knows what
to eat—anything will do, I’d say,
like the smoldering cigarette butt
a man just flicked his way.
The gull sniffs it like a dog.
Oh, my! He’s got it in his bill
as if to mimic Bogart in the fog
at Casablanca. No one will
believe this! A lady passes by.
She doesn’t see the film-noir bird;
but sees me laughing, so I try
to point and MOUTH the word
“Smoking!” which merely
baffles her to look around
then back at me, still queerly
forming words without a sound.
So I roll down the window and say
“That seagull over there is smoking!”
She looks, but the gull has gone away—
"I don't see him now, but I’m not joking.
He was holding a cigarette...not in his wing...
but in his bill... it wasn’t his.…This guy—
Why would I make up such a thing?”
I stammer. She walks on without reply,
and who can blame her really?
It feels more like March than May.
It’s a damp cold, wet and chilly.
It’s a drizzle of sky and gray.

It's been raining for two days now. Tomorrow is supposed to do the same. It's good writing weather. A friend has observed that I tend to draw more from the past than the present. It’s true that when I reflect on "family," for instance, it's usually a backward glance with plenty of years acting as a buffer. I often go all the way back to my own childhood (or stories from my parents). That way those who share the experience are more likely honored than embarrassed (as my daughters would be if I wrote about our day-to-day shared life—someday maybe... but not now). Some stories can be told right away; others take years to crystallize into something that can be passed along without breaking.

So today I decided to write the above piece very much in the present and, in fact, in present tense. Until now, I missed the double meaning of to those two words. Not only is the present sometimes tense, but its progressive element feels more like on-the-spot reporting with a hand-held recorder than typical writing. If I ever do this again, I'll try not to involve myself in what's happening (since it’s hard to scribble in "real time" while making a fool of myself with perfect strangers).

Because I began writing this in a parked car, I really should tell you a little bit about my Grandpa S. (I know, I know…so much for the present....
He's in the front row

Past Perfect

I first learned to sit in idle cars
by waiting in tavern parking lots
for Grampa. Looking back on it now,
I’m surprised it was somehow
acceptable to stop for a drink
before a road trip (or at the other end),
but that was the case with Grampa.
I say this not to judge or to offend.
(It’s just ironic that at the dawn
of industry-required seat belts,
stopping for a drink to make the drive
with four grandkids more bearable
was not yet a concern.)
Sometimes, if the wait was getting long,
Grandma would send me inside
to get him, and he always introduced me
to the bar tender with pride.
I must say in all those years
I never saw him in the grip of drink—
but I don't think I was looking.

Grampa had Humphrey Bogart's style
when he held a cigarette—
which was almost always.
(Bogart died of cancer in '57; Grampa in '75)
Truth be told, most evenings also found
an open brown bottle near his feet,
but we loved Grampa just the same
in spite of his ways—
especially, it seems, on summer days
when the willow wept clear to the ground.
Like that wonderful night,
he sat on the back porch swing
carving little flutes of willow bark,
and we played them on the grassy slope
between the sidewalk and the house till dark.

At the end of such visits,
I'd kiss his stubbled cheek and smell the scent
of Old Spice, Lucky Strikes, and Black Label—
all part of his film noir charm.
He'd smile and say, "Be a good bad boy,"
and loved the fact that I never quite knew
what he meant. It was Grampa who
also quipped, "It'sa damp cold day,"
(which my siblings and I still cannot say
without smiling). He would have said it
today, no doubt, had he been with me
when that lone seagull vanished
like a ghost.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Place to Grow

It just occurred to me (though I think I calculated it a while ago and then forgot it) that June 2006 marks my 25th year in K-12 education: Upon completing grad school, I taught a year in Muncie, Indiana; then moved to Waterloo, Iowa, where I taught (and later administrated) for a total of eighteen years; and I've now administrated six years (thus far) here in West Michigan.

Two things stand out to me based simply on the math: First, I can hardly believe it’s been six years since we moved to West Michigan (it truly has been a pleasure to live and serve here). Second, it’s hard to fathom that we will live here twelve more years before it equals the eighteen consecutive years we spent in Iowa. That’s a long time to spend in one place by today’s transient standards.

My wife and I began there in Waterloo as young, green teachers. Our first residence was an apartment across the street from the school. Then we purchased a happy “mobile home” beside a picturesque pond for $6,800. Oh, my! Iowa winters brought days of 25+ below zero that passed like slow glaciers over the barren corn fields. TWENTY-FIVE BELOW! That’s not wind-chill—that’s bone-chill!

One cold arctic week, school was closed for three days—not a flake of snow…just a cold that froze your nose hairs before you could walk to a car that wouldn’t start. We spent two winters like that, shivering for months, listening to the drone of a small furnace that seemed to never stop running, and hoping our car would turn over in the morning. Our first-born arrived in our second October of mobile-home living.

After that fun housing adventure (thanks largely to a buyer's market left in the wake of the farm crisis of the mid-eighties), we were able to buy a nice two-story bungalow a few blocks from the school for an unheard of price (and the seller was kind enough to pay all of our closing costs!) . It was an answer to prayer on a fixer-upper that was soon worth three times what we paid for it. That house endeared itself to us for many reasons.

Of all the homes we may ever know, it’s “the little blue house” on Berkshire that will always be our girl’s favorite. It is there that their fondest memories were made and where, I’m told, there dreams still sometimes take them in a mix of past and present and people here and gone that can happen only in dreams. If my former students from those 18 years remember gatherings at our house, or babysitting for us, it was there on Berkshire.

But of course our years there in Iowa are even more encapsulated in another building: the church and school on the corner of Ansborough and Ridgeway. Those were wonderful years in the classroom (and later the office). There I learned that if you invest in students and let them know you care, some of them are able to see past your flaws and foibles and learn something they might just remember way down the road of life—and better yet, down that same road… the teacher realizes he learned a lot from them, too.

As a bonus to that part of my career, about ten years into my time there, it was in the church that I learned many things from a handful of peers and older gentlemen (who understood the need to develop leaders in the next generation). These men patiently watched my exuberance calcify into experience… and, in time, watched a thirty-five-year-old guy become slightly more useful to the Kingdom by the time he was forty-something. I could not minister as I now do were it not for my many mentors and the hundreds of students who taught me during those years in the Heartland.

During most of that time, the state-line welcome signs read: “Iowa, a place to grow.” That was true in more ways than one. Greetings to all of our Hawkeye friends!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

On Having No Regrets

Looking back on fifty years,
I can say I’ve no regrets,
which is not to say that,
if it were possible,
I’d do it all the same again
or chart the very course
for those who take my lead.
To relive life as if rehearsed
would be dismissing both
reason and recollection,
but a life with no regrets requires
neither amnesia nor perfection.

It is wise to strive for few mistakes,
embarrassments, hurts, and shame,
and never to presume on Grace
but it would be regrettable in deed—
to never have felt pain or loss
else how would we know their cause?

Saying I’ve no regrets doesn’t mean
I’ve never blown it or needed
to say ‘I’m sorry’ or pleaded
for forgiveness.
I’ve fallen countless times.
But it would be most regrettable
to never know remorse
and the taste of swallowed pride,
and the touch of the hand that helps me up.

Having no regrets does not mean
I’ve never prayed for things
that weren’t meant to be
or for some things to somehow be undone.
But how regrettable life would be if
our needs were narrowed to what’s known,
and all our wants were within reach,
or if time remained within our grasp.
I fear we’d never learn
the patience in a promise kept,
the prudence from the tears we’ve wept.

‘Twould be hilted arrogance
to boast of no regrets as if to have
mastered life’s gauntlets—devilish or divine—
when the opposite is true.
But in the end, there’s only one regret
that cannot turn for what is best,
and that is this: to never see,
to never understand,
how regrettable life would be
if it were truly in my hand.
© Copyright 2006, TK, Patterns of Ink
There is a part of human nature that resists accountability (to man and ultimately to God); a part of us (or of mankind) that foolishly pretends that we are the master of our fate, as Henley scoffed in his poem, Invictus; a part of us resonates with Frank Sinatra's swansong, "My Way." (I suppose, if that song were speaking only of originality or of one's determination to avoid following the crowd it would be fine; but as a mortal declaration of moral independence (as the last stanza implies), it's a regrettable final bow.) There's another song that picks up this theme from a more poetic but less convincing character perspective.

When my brother Dave and I were in high school (and trying to add meat to our bones by lifting weights in the basement), we always listened to our other brother Paul's stereo albums. Our favorites were
Simon and Garfunkel. I still know most of them by heart. One of them attempts to prescribe a life of no regret through resolve and retreat.

"I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,

Hiding in my room,
safe within my womb.
I touch no one
and no one touches me.
I am a rock,/I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries."
The reason the lyrics of that song ring true is that even as the poet (Paul Simon) claims to be stone and denies his feelings, he is obviously very human and very hurt. Rather than disproving John Donne's words, he inadvertently underscores them: "No man is an Island, entire of itself..." but Donne's thought was merely a 17th Century paraphrase of another Paul's words found in Romans 14:7, "For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. (8) For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." How regrettable life would be if it were truly in our hands.

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