For Whom The Bell Tolls

For some reason, I never grasped the pop culture reference, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.  I knew it was from the Ernest Hemingway book, and I have sung along with the Metallica song half of my life.  But what does it mean?

Ride The Lightening

Metallica paints a picture of death and war:

Take a look to the sky just before you die
It's the last time he will
Blackened roar, massive roar, fills the crumbling sky
Shattered goal fills his soul with a ruthless cry
Stranger now are his eyes to this mystery
He hears the silence so loud
Crack of dawn, all is gone except the will to be
Now they see what will be, blinded eyes to see

And although I never read the book, it would seem that the main themes are death and suicide.

These are the images I have always associated with this quote.

But today I found that the phrase is taken from "Meditation XVII" of Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, a 1624 metaphysical poem by John Donne:

"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 promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's 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."

Now when I think of the phrase, I see myself as a cog in a much bigger wheel – a sense of one-ness with those around me. 

I mean I still scream at people that cut me off, but at least now I realize I am really screaming at myself.

 

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