paul simonGrowing up, I remember when I first found the musical stylings of Simon and Garfunkel. Their sound, though certainly not new, was fresh to me. It was a nice break from the monotonous pop beats and the uni-themed country lyrics.

I remember one song that resonated deeply with me. A lonely teenager with family issues and self-image issues, I was drawn in to the lyric:

I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I must admit, it was these lyrics and a deep devotion to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism that gave me any appearance of self-confidence throughout high school. Randian philosophy will have to take a backseat today, though I’m sure as I indulge in this public introspection it will undoubtedly rear its ugly head.

But how many of us are taught from an early age ideas similar to Paul Simon’s lyric? “People will let you down.” “Who needs enemies with friends like these?” Man, we have a depressing view of our fellow man. Men are taught that we do not cry and women are taught to not cry in public. The walls of our individual islands are practically built for us at an early age.

How do these walls affect us as we transition into adulthood? Well, for me, they meant walking away from my faith in God, isolating myself in the fantastical worlds of online gaming, and distancing myself from my family. As, by the grace of God, I found my way back to belief in Him, together we started chiseling away the bulwarks.

Today, He has blessed me with a great wife, eshet chayim, amazing friends, awesome community, honest worship and study and a deep desire for Him. But society still puts barriers between us every day.

How often do I drive by a friend’s house and instinct tells me to pull in the drive and pick him up for a beer? The moment the thought enters my head, I remember all of the societal constraints placed on such spontaneous community, and figure he probably has something better going on anyway. So I go on past and sit at my local Starbucks hoping someone I know will wander by.

Even something that reminds me of someone in my life will cause me to long to be in community with them. I will see a model of a car one of my buddies drives. Anxious and hopeful, like an unashamed child opening a Christmas present, I peek into the window only to see an unfamiliar face with a bewildered expression staring at me. I really should stop sneaking around people’s cars.

life togetherI long for real community. Not the “I’ll see you next Sunday morning” community, but the constant presence of loved ones in a life lived in community with God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together: “If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you.”

I don’t know what is ahead of me, but whatever comes, I pray I will not face it without community around me. I don’t want to be an island anymore.

Have any of you seen something that reminded you of a dear friend and just had to call them or see them? If you didn’t, what stopped you? And how can we break down these societal barriers so true community can happen?

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2 thoughts on “One lonely island

  1. I sometimes wonder if we’re in identical places in our lives. I have been, for the past several months, thinking about “community” (though I’ve been calling it family, probs cause I’m more introverted than you). People who you truly connect with, who will be there for you no matter what. It’s so odd, but one of the things I’ve been enjoying (and had missed the most) is sitting down to dinner/lunch/whatever with Anthony and David. Just sitting and eating and talking. It’s one of the things I love about going to see you or when I visit Rachel or Darcy. i’ve been working to build a family of my own for years and never really noticed till recently.

    Your 20s are such a lonely, lonely time. Or so I’ve been told, but I wonder if life isn’t just lonely in general unless you make an effort to build real connections with people. And it does take effort because of all those societal barriers you were talking about. Intimacy is dangerous, it comes at a high cost, and for a lot of people, they don’t take the effort to go out and do that. But you have to bring down your barriers, and you have to get under others’. You have to be honest. And I think honesty is something our society sucks at.

    Also, fuck Ayn Rand. Tautological nonsense.

    1. Haha I agree about Rand, now 🙂
      Also, you’re right. It is completely scary to be in true intimacy with anyone. Vulnerability is not something taught alongside algebra, these days.

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