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Building the world’s longest undersea tunnel: ‘No man is an island, entire of itself’

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Building the world's longest undersea tunnel: 'No man is an island, entire of itself'
The Channel Tunnel is a 50.5 km-long rail tunnel beneath the English Channel at the Straits of Dover. The Channel Tunnel links Folkestone, England, with Coquelles, France.

Napoleon’s engineer planned it in 1802. An attempt was made in 1880 but abandoned. In June 1988, work began in earnest.

On this day in 1994, the Chunnel opened.

Connecting Britain and the European mainland for the first time since the Ice Age, the Channel Tunnel links Folkestone, England, with Coquelles, France. It cut travel time between England and France to thirty-five minutes and made it possible to travel from London to Paris in two-and-a-half hours.

The Chunnel runs under water for twenty-three miles, making it the world’s longest undersea tunnel. Millions of tons of earth were moved to build the two rail tunnels—one for northbound and one for southbound traffic—and one service tunnel.

England’s Queen Elizabeth II and French President Francois Mitterrand presided over the ceremony that officially opened the Chunnel. In 1996, the American Society of Civil Engineers identified it as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

John Donne famously observed, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” The Chunnel validated his assertion, both geographically and practically.

At the peak of the construction, fifteen thousand people were working on the Chunnel. It required the cooperation of two nations and multilayered corporate structures. One person obviously could not have dug a tunnel from England to Europe.

‘No man is an island, entire of itself’

As Helen Keller noted, “Alone we can do little; together we can do so much.”

This fact contradicts the existential individualism our culture so prizes, however. Postmodern relativism has convinced many that truth is personal and subjective. There is no objective meaning to the world or to our lives. We are each left to make of ourselves what we can.

There was a time when the Western world envisioned history as a line progressing upward. Now we see history as a cloud of chaotic dots, each standing alone and in coincidental relation to others.

God disagrees. He noted at the dawn of creation, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). He gave Aaron to Moses, Jonathan to David, Barnabas to Paul. Even Jesus had a best friend, the disciple John (John 13:23; 19:26).

What is your kingdom assignment, your life calling? If you know the partners God has given you in fulfilling your purpose, thank him and them today. If you do not, ask the Lord to reveal them to you.

You cannot dig your Chunnel by yourself. The good news is, you don’t have to.