Do you live on an island? Not an island like my home of Maui, but an island of your own creation within your personal life and environment. Do you ever find yourself alone in a crowd of friends, or alone among your family, or among your co-workers? There are moments when we find ourselves mentally and emotionally separating ourselves from the world around us, often without conscious thought or intention.
Whether daydreaming, lost in thought, or mentally eclipsed by strong emotions, all become personal islands insulating us from the rest of the world. Being able to focus to the point of turning off our surroundings can be a good thing, allowing us to solve problems despite distractions, but there can also be a dark side.
There is perhaps no more painful experience than the loss of a loved one. Grief is a powerful force, capable of driving a well balanced mind into the edges of insanity, threatening to drown all sense of reality in an ocean of sadness. The person forced to dwell on this small island faces a hurricane of emotion only another who has survived such a storm can truly appreciate. Mental health professionals have studied this phenomenon, categorized and labeled it, and offered assistance, but finding the way off the island is a task only to be accomplished by the person stranded there. The adage ‘time heals all wounds’ in my experience is not always true. Injuries, physical or emotional, heal, scar over, and eventually fade, but basically time allows us to learn to live with the memories, become accustomed to the pain, and bridge the gap between our island and the mainland of society.
The ability to disconnect enough to avoid distractions is often critical to accomplishing our work, allowing us to focus our attention on the task at hand and ignore the activities around us. Unfortunately, our modern world and modern communications have created a sometimes dangerous manner of placing us on our own island at inappropriate times and placing our personal island in conflict with another.
An island can be beautiful or ugly, warm and cozy or cold and painful, fulfilling and satisfying or disappointing. Perhaps John Donne said is best:
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 if a manor of thy friend’s
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.