It is a common phrase we hear, tucked in here and there to show that man is not self-dependent or independent, and in fact requires not only companionship but also strength in numbers in order to gain his sustenance.
If you come to think about it, even the natural order of things does not allow for me to be a complete loner. I was born as a sixth member of my family. Right when I was born I had two sets of grandparents, parents, fives uncles, an aunt, a dozen cousins and three (incredibly awesome) siblings.
As we begin to grow up, we are institutionalized, by which I mean put into academic ones. From this point forth our life is just a race through one school to another, or to a college, and then to a university and then perhaps to another university. All these years you manage to gather another web of people you begin to depend upon. Whole categories worth of people; teachers, acquaintances, school friends, college friends, and university friends. If you are lucky, you get promoted to another institution after that which is called quite aptly; work. And there you have another set of people to forge through and pick as your own; boss, colleague, project manager, you name it.
However, somewhere along the way we don’t just categorize the people according to how we know them, but also we begin to prioritize them. That uncle always gives me more Eidi on Eid so he’s the best. That school friend stole my eraser in kindergarten; she’s such a menace to society. That girl from university wear hideous clothes, does she not look at herself in the mirror before coming? I really don’t want to be seen with her.
With this prioritization of the people in our life, we begin also to alienate the people in our life. Sometimes we do it to a single person out of some grudge we have or a bad past experience. But other times we do it as a group; someone who doesn’t fit our perception of a friend and hence cannot be included in our confidantes.
The truth is though that by prioritizing the people in our life, we begin to treat them like commodities. We label them; pervert, druggie, psycho, loser etc. And with these labels we begin to shed these labelled commodities from our lives, very much the same way we label our old clothes when cleaning out our closets as garbage, give away, hopelessly old etc and then continue to dump them.
What we need to realize is the difference between not being an island and reducing someone to an island. Where yes it is wise to have some level of prioritizing in the people you love and trust, there we must also be careful to not make someone feel excluded. So your group of friends does not like a person, it does not mean that you must dislike them as well. In fact, befriend them and show your friends what a great person that person really is; or at least try to be polite to them.
Reaching out to other people and accepting the fact that we are all not islands drifting in the sea is key to human existence. You are not alone if you are with the right persons and then you realize the sense in never letting anyone feel that way either.
And if you are among the few who have been made to feel lonely and commoditized, don’t be shy to say it aloud, “I’m not an island!”