No man is an island? One of those ambiguous phrases that I had never heard, up until a few years ago. Since then I started hearing it everywhere. Like “never look a gift horse in the mouth.” They’re phrases that I’m sick of; even before I had ever heard them, they had been beaten into society’s lexicon. By the time they reached my eyes and ears, the speakers and writers assumed you knew he meaning. Like a pop culture reference to the plot of Star Wars, they just assumed you had heard it before. Because everyone has seen Star Wars.
Most of the time, the context doesn’t even make sense. “Hey Jerry, did you hear it’s Max’s birthday? We’re throwing him a party.” “Oh, he doesn’t celebrate his birthdays.” “Well, never look a gift horse in the mouth.” “You know, you’re right. No man is an island.” Earlier I used the word ambiguous to mean that there is more than one way to interpret these phrases. Seriously, assume you don’t know what it means, then the differences emerge. Should I also never look a present cow up the udder? Are women islands, which is why men can’t be islands? No man is an island? Really? No man is a coffee table either, but I didn’t feel like I had to bring that up.
The worst part of that tired cliché is that the polar opposite, being “EVERY man is an island,” is equally used, dividing all of society into two types of people: there are those that believe the latter and those that believe the former (and of course those that don’t give a shit either way). Both the extremes are arguable. Nobody is truly alone, and everybody is truly alone. But why don’t we just say this; why use a five word parable that confuse people who have no concept of metaphors.
And why must we leave out moderates? What if life is really as simple as: the lonely are alone, and everybody else has people who love and support them. Some people are islands, other people are mainlands. Such is life.
No man is an island? Then why does my cell phone never ring? How can I go for days without human contact, when most people couldn’t do that if they tried? If I’m not an island, than what am I? And empty life raft? Maybe a coffee table? And if everybody is an island, why does most of society never eat alone? Not in restaurants, at least. I see people addicted to social life. I know people who can’t be alone for ten minutes without whipping out a cell phone, to send off novels worth of texts, and to update their Facebook.
Everybody is an island? How come there is marriage?
Nobody is an island? How come there is divorce?
My point: don’t be afraid of defying cliché. Think before you speak. And embrace the moderates.