John Donne’s Meditation XVII, which spawned the idiom ‘No man is an island,’ argues that we are all part of a bigger whole and on our own we will remain eternally incomplete. It’s generally a rather morbid passage of text, nonetheless, he must have had a few decent insights to spawn a saying that’s still given life today, a saying that can still be applied to everyday life.
Bear Grylls’ current channel 4 programme, ‘The Island’ places 13 men, from varying walks of life, on an uninhabited, remote Pacific island in an attempt to unveil modern man’s ability to return to his primitive survival instincts and last eight weeks completely alone. Outside of 3 of them being trained cameramen and one in first aid, they have some basic tools, a small initial ration of water and each other’s company to pull them through the stint.
A recent episode centred around one member of the team, or ‘tribe’ as they’ve been dubbed, becoming outcast due to his perceived lack of effort. Against the rules he wandered off into the jungle, perhaps to revaluate his position, maybe just to seek out some food. Becoming concerned for his safety, two of the other men went searching for him. After hours of searching he finally appeared along the coast, shoulders shrugged with little optimism in his tone. The two other men had wasted their dwindling energy levels searching for him and ultimately had a decision to make. They could either berate the young guy or muster some level of compassion and attempt to reinvigorate him.
Ultimately they reintegrated him into the team through a bit of well placed sympathy and a few tame jokes, to aid the healing process. The next day he pulled up his socks, helped catch food, lugged the water to and from camp and even caught a bird on his own to feed the starving men. The reintegration, and his new sense of purpose and worth within the team gave him the impetus to go out and achieve the personal goals he’d set himself before embarking on the challenge.
Ultimately it showed that we do not thrive when isolated from others, but when our interactions and engagements with them bring us closer together. Although, admittedly the vast majority of us won’t find ourselves stranded on a desert island, dangerously dehydrated, eating what the men have dubbed ‘poo fish,’ due to its horrific aroma. Extreme circumstances maybe, but nonetheless the Show represents a microcosm of human behaviour. In order to reach our full potential we need to utilise the strengths of each individual member of our team to create a stronger, more efficient whole. Words of motivation and enthusiasm from others pulsate our desire to achieve our individual and team goals; words that never come to the solitude of the man who walks alone.
To refer back to another artistic work that isn’t overly inspiring, but contains elements of brilliance, a moment from Nick Hornby’s ‘About A Boy’ seems to be quite relevant. Hugh Grant’s late 30s early 40s eligible bachelor character pronounces, when questioned about his ability to survive on his own, ‘No man’s an island? Well I’m an island, I’m f****** Ibiza!’ Well Hugh, we all need some support when we come back from there.
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