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When the Lebanon cedar gets a start in the young forest we're told, it crowds out all other types of silvan life. No spruce or fir or hemlock can be found. There are no ferns or flowers or foliage; no shrubs or creepers or trees of any kind. Cedar has the sole monopoly. It stands isolated and alone, for it has crowded out all its neighbors.
In the realm of human life, the prophet Isaiah tells us of a man who bought up the land surrounding his farm, joining house to house and adding field to field, thus pushing back his neighbors until he stood alone; shut off from all neighborly associations. "What a pitiable spectacle this man presents", comments columnist John R. Gunn, "through selfishness and greed the grasping man makes a hermit of himself and nothing is more unnatural than living as a hermit."
The instinct of humanity craves companionship - the very cattle go in herds, the fishes in shoals, the bees in swarms, the quails in coveys. Says Emerson, "The selfish man suffers more from his selfishness than he from whom that selfishness withholds some important benefit."
And so it was with the man Isaiah tells about. He suffered far more than his neighbors, from whom he isolated himself, through his selfish monopoly of the whole territory around him.
And so it is today, the selfish man condemns himself to a lonely, friendless life. A life without happy companionship. What greater punishment can one suffer than to be condemned to a life of such torturous solitude.