John Donne Was Right

Krone, Max T. (Max Thomas)


  • Max Krone imagines looking on earth from a great distance and explains how this perspective gives him insight into the fundamental unity of man on earth.
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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Dr. Max T. Krone, Dean of the University of Southern California’s Institute of the Arts, is a serious musician with a merry twinkle in his eyes, and an imaginative, balanced view of life. This is what he believes.
Some time ago I saw an electron microscope photograph of a slice of tissue from the brain of a mouse. The brain cells of this mouse had been cut so thin that it would have taken five hundred thousand such slices to make a pile an inch high.
The brain cells themselves had been enlarged so many times by the microscope that had the tiny mouse who gave his life for this scientific experiment been enlarged proportionately he would have assumed the dimensions of some prehistoric dinosaur. Truly I was having a view of life so close to my eyes that there was not space to blink.
Just yesterday I saw another photograph, one taken through the two-hundred-inch telescope at Palomar Observatory of a star so far away from us that its light had taken some fabulous number of light years—was it billions or trillions?—to reach that sensitized photographic plate even though it was traveling 186,000 miles a second. My vision had been extended both into the past and into space, so far that I could only marvel breathlessly at the sweep of infinity that lay behind and around me.
As I have thought of these two photographs I have wondered if by chance there were some being on that distant star whose intelligence had so surpassed ours that he had been able to develop instruments so much more sensitive than ours
that he could not only see the little ball we call the Earth, revolving out in space, but that he might also be able to see those tiny specks called men that creep and fly about this ball. And what if he might also be able to hear the things we say or even hear the things we think! What would he think of these men?
What would I think of myself if I had such a place in space and time from which I might observe my actions, scan my thoughts and hear the things I say? What would I then leave unsaid, and what undone?
I believe that could I reflect upon the life I watched myself unfold from such a distant star,
I would not be content or happy unless I had worked to leave that little part of the world in which I had lived some tiny bit better a place in which to live than it was when I was born into it.
Just what form and direction my life would take with such compulsion would depend upon many things—upon the particular part of the world of which I was a part and the people with whom my lot was cast. It would depend upon the particular combination of cells that formed my brain and body and which laid down the pattern of interests and abilities that were mine.
But this I believe: that from such a vantage point in time and space I would see the truth that John Donne saw when he wrote, “No man is an island.” And I am sure I would see that man, of all the forms of life that inhabit this revolving ball,
the Earth, has been given a unique capacity for enjoying it. But he has also inherited an infinite capacity for creating misery and unhappiness, both within himself and in his fellow men. And I believe I would see, far off in space and time, that the two are closely related, that I cannot be truly happy while my fellow man is miserable, oppressed, sick in mind and body, hungry, cold, unclothed, unenlightened, and unable to enjoy the beauty in the world about him. For I would see from afar what I too often cannot see at close quarters—that “earth is fair and all her folk be one.”
That was Dr. Max T. Krone, a nationally-known expert in the field of choral conducting and the teaching of music. He has, it seems to us, worked out for himself a creed which puts him in very close harmony with his fellow men.