The concept of man being part of a wider community, is common across most cultures and religions.
The phase, ‘No man is an island,’first appeared in a poem by John Donne (1572–1631), Devotions Upon Emergent Occations, Meditation XVII: Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Merieris
“ No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls ; it tolls for thee.”
Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, was first to popularise the phrase. It was further accelerated into public use by the release of the 1962 film of the same name.
Besides Donne’s metaphysical notion that man in isolation from others will suffer, the poem goes on to suggest, that what man does to one person, he does to all humanity.
We were born into a family, a community, that loved and nurtured us from birth until we were self-sufficient. Without that love and nurturing, we would not survive. Is it not strange, how some people — mostly men — can spend the rest of their lives, trying to be an island? Could it be that to be a provider, a protector, and ‘the head of the household’, a man feels he must stand alone?
In Seth Godin’s 2008 book Tribes, We Need You to Lead Us, the idea of people gravitating towards other like minded individuals and forming groups — or tribes — is said to be in our nature. For millennia, people have formed tribes that share common traits such as religious beliefs, political stance, cultural similarities, and other common interests.
In today’s technologically driven world, we have more opportunities than ever to create or join a tribe that represents the values and principles we espouse. Finding and engaging with like-minded folks has never been as accessible to as many, as it is today. Yet, as most embrace technology and its ability to connect people, some still choose to remain solitary. And, noble as the thought of, ‘ Me against the world’ may sound, the overwhelming evidence suggests we are all interconnected and ‘need’ each other, not only to survive, but to thrive. Is it not a sad truth that the digital age has increased loneliness around the world, said to be due to people caring less?
When we go through challenging times, it’s tempting to, ‘Go it alone.’ We seem to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. When we turn to our fellow human being, with humility and grace, the response comes from a place of caring. We are all programmed to have compassion, a uniquely human characteristic. No other animal has the ability to show compassion, probably because we are the only ones that need it.
So today, celebrate our interconnectedness and seek out your tribe, because no man is an island.
Originally published at https://www.leapfirst.co.za on July 26, 2020.