A Man Is Not An Island

27.02.19

I like my own company.

Actually, I love it. I can spend an entire weekend with Me. We (myself and I) might go for a walk in the morning, or drive to a café for a coffee “To have here, thank you!”. We might see a film if it’s raining, or attempt to cook something – before quickly remembering that we (myself and I) haven’t learnt to cook yet so we’ll instead opt for something a little less ambitious, like a smoothie. We love doing stuff like that.

I tell you this only to give you a few examples of the ways in which I am an introvert. An outgoing and reasonably loud introvert, sure! But an introvert. I re-energize when I’m alone and I expend that energy in the company of others. If I’ve had a particularly social weekend I often find myself physically unable to move, it feels like cement has been poured into my arms and legs and mouth and all I can do is lie very still and wait for things to liquify again.

You should bear this introversion in mind when I tell you the following:

A man is not an island. 

If I was an extrovert, it would be so easy for me to say that. To extoll the virtues of “getting out more!!!”. But despite my introversion, I believe that a man is not an island. We are not called to live life alone. And especially now, in our current social media climate, where digital communication is often conflated with real connection, I worry that our generation is unintentionally isolating ourselves.

Take billionaires, for example. The primary reason American voters are angry about the possibility of Michael Bloomberg (with an estimated fortune of $46 billion) or Howard Schultz (with a modest $3.3 billion) running for president is that American billionaires, more than any other socio-economic group, are islands. A billionaire is an island. Bloomberg or Schultz spend their weeks traveling in chauffeur-driven cars, from their secluded mansions in their gated communities to their private offices uptown, and it’s from their private offices uptown that they embark on their private planes to reach their private yachts. Billionaires miss out entirely on the mundane human interactions the rest of us have; bumping into someone we’d rather not see at the supermarket, arguing with a stranger over who gets the next taxi, getting said-taxi and then engaging in a surreal conversation with the driver about his family. Billionaires miss out on un-biased conflict and resolution, on sound judgement, on old-fashion unsolicited advice from a loved one. So it’s un-surprising that voters aren’t thrilled about an out of touch presidential candidate – who doesn’t know how much the average bus fare is – deciding their taxes.

Put plainly, as much as we all hate bumping into someone we’d rather not see at the supermarket or arguing with a cabbie on the fastest way to get from A to B, it’s important that we do it. Not because we should suffer, but because those experiences are examples of what it means to be a participant in the world. An exchange over Instagram DM will never compensate for a face to face conversation because you can’t hear someone’s self-doubt through Instagram, you can’t see it in a person’s face and the way their eyebrows draw together and the corners of their mouth turn down towards their chin when they’re worried about the future. And if you can’t see those things then you can’t reassure that person that everything will be okay. It’s not about human connection despite our introversion or insecurities, it’s because of them. We simply cannot reach our full potential in isolation.

Plus if there’s anything the Fyre Festival taught us, it’s that nothing good happens on an island.


Header image via Tumblr