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John Donne was an English cleric and poet of exceeding intellect who lived his adult life in the early 1600’s. King James I appointed him the dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. But in 1623 he became ill and felt he was dying of the plague, which was taking so many lives at that time. While convalescing, he wrote his book Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. It was a book about his struggle with death and human relationships. Interestingly, a Broadway play was written based on Donne’s works. Margaret Edson, a kindergarten teacher, received a Pulitzer Prize for the play she entitled Wit. Later on, HBO released a movie version of it, starring Emma Thompson. It is a moving film about Vivian Bearing, a literary scholar who specialized in the works of John Donne. Suddenly, however, she discovers that she, like Donne, is struggling with a life-threatening illness. The film is a personal journal of her struggle with cancer and death, and how she faces it with biting humor and amazing wit. In a very moving closing scene, she is visited by her old literature professor, Dr. E. M. Ashford. Dr. Ashford is on her way to her grandson’s birthday party, but stops by the hospital to see her former student. Vivian is in the throes of death, and in need of human warmth and compassion. Instead of remaining distant, her old professor takes off her shoes, laid down next to her in the bed and put her arms around her. She inquires if Vivian would like her to recite something, and asks if she would like to hear something from John Donne. Vivian shakes her head, “No.” So Dr. Ashford pulls from her bag a book she had bought for her grandson’s birthday. She starts to read from Margaret Wise Brown’s children’s book The Runaway Bunny. She begins reading softly, “Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away. So he said to his mother, ‘I am running away.’ ‘If you run away,’ said his mother, ‘I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.’ ‘If you run after me,’ said the little bunny, ‘I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you.’ ‘If you become a fish in a trout stream,’ said his mother, ‘I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.’” Then, thinking out loud, Dr. Ashford says, “Look at that. A little allegory of the soul. No matter where it hides, God will find it. See, Vivian?”


The message in the philosophy of John Donne, the story of the runaway Bunny and the heart of the Bible are the same: “You just can’t get away from God.” If you run from him, he runs after you. If you run to him, he embraces you. But wherever you are, and wherever you go, his eyes of love will follow you.

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