“No man is an island.” John Donne captured this sentiment well when he coined the popular phrase, but it would be 400 years until we achieved this on a global scale. Later in his Meditation XVII he wrote: “Each man’s death diminishes me—for I am involved in mankind.” This truth resounds with me. We are not alone. We need each other. In that vein something wonderful is happening to the world, and it gives me great hope.
I recently spoke with a guy who delivers rugs to businesses—the kind that sit at the front door. He picks up the soiled rugs and drops off the clean ones. I’d known him awhile, and he struck me as a nice guy—another average Joe in a town surrounded by farmland. One day he mentioned something about co-op gaming, and I mentioned that I had just picked up Borderlands 2, which my wife and I play together.
I’d hit a vein with him. He began to talk in depth about how much he loved Call of Duty. He told me he plays with a fairly dedicated crew of people, and next year as it turns out, they will be gathering in Hawaii to meet face to face for the first time. There will be people from Australia there, Europe, Japan. This had a big impact on me not because of the ability to connect, but because of this guy, or who I thought he was. He was a man’s man, a local boy. Twenty years ago he would have only hung out with his buddies from high school. I don’t accept that people are inherently evil, but narrow mindedness follows when we are isolated in our communities. Where I live, our city is centered in miles and miles of wheat farms. We are very isolated.
Yet, here before me was a country boy, 200 miles from a major metro area, who was having regular interactions with a guy from the Northern Territory, and a guy in University classes in Tokyo named Takahashi. He told me about a woman in Frankfurt who swears like a sailor but all ‘auf Deutsch’, and a British dairy farmer who discovered gaming later in life. This guy is more connected to the world than 99% of the people in the world were ten or twenty years ago, and he’s just an average Joe playing video games.
What does this mean to me? It means a lasting peace between nations. Wars and conflict are the result of feeling that ‘the other’ is out there. But as social connectedness draws across the globe my guess/hope is that the feeling of ‘the other’ will die out. We cannot help but realize that the woman in Germany, the farmer who lives outside of Leeds-UK, the kid in Tokyo, and the Aussie are all just like us, decent people who depend on good friendships.
…and all that while playing a war game. I’m not sure John Donne could have seen that coming.