No Man is an Island

By Jheri St. James

     The 13, 000 islands and islets of Indonesia were the “Indies” sought by Christopher Columbus and other explorers. The Moluccas, part of Indonesia, were the “Spice Islands” of merchant venturers. Strung out along the equator from Sumatra, facing the Indian Ocean in the west, to New Guinea in the east, Indonesia, Republic of Southeast Asia, occupies most of the Malay archipelago. Most of the islands are mountainous, some with volcanic peaks. Animal life includes elephants, tigers, rhinoceros, orangutans and, in the eastern islands, pouched animals—opposum, wallaby and cuscus—also many beautiful and brightly colored birds. Snakes and crocodiles abound, but Indonesia’s most famous reptile is the Komodo dragon, the giant lizard of the small island of Komodo, east of Sumatra. Sumatra was heavily damaged in the recent tsunami on December 26, 2004. Is the Komodo dragon endangered?

     Hominids lived on Java 1,000,000 years ago. This is a geographical area that is so huge (735,200 sq. mi.), so diverse and exotic, so steeped in time, that all the rulerships, all the natural disasters (1883 volcano killed 30,000; 2004 tsunami killed 230,000 at last count), all the wars, can be seem like naught but little dots on the vast panoply that is mankind in Indonesia.

     During the Sukarno era, the Indonesian government proved to be an enthusiastic erector of monuments and many of the city of Jakarta’s squares, crossroads, and parks have been embellished with reminders of the country’s long battle to achieve independence, in 1949. The most famous of these is the National Monument known as “Monas” in the middle of Merdeka Square—a soaring, marble obelisk 130 meters high, on top of which a gilded bronze flame shines by night and by day as a source of inspiration. Russell Vogel collected his soil from this site in Indonesia for Common Ground 191, recognizing its spiritual significance, with a capital S, or two.

     All the major countries of the world have united in relief efforts for Indonesia’s recent tragedy, some even competing to see who could give the most money and aid. This is a completely novel, unforeseen and heartening development in global history. Perhaps Indonesia’s losses will be the catalyst for more cooperative efforts on the part of mankind for the good of all. And Common Ground 191’s soil meditation may be the symbolic flame that lights the way. If we each light one little candle, the darkness will dissipate. No man is an island.






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