Islands In A Common Sea

“I feel we are all islands – in a common sea.”
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The older I get and the more I learn about life and existence, the more apt this quote seems.

Each of us is an island, remote and distinct from all others because no one knows us nearly as well as we know ourselves. Nor is it possible to know anyone else that well. It’s difficult enough to know what is on the mind of another person even in the most intimate of situations, and then we may be mistaken.

We don’t even know ourselves well. Most of us can look back ten or twenty years and find how we have developed to be remarkable, unexpected, with growth in ways we had no ability back then to anticipate.

The most obvious way to find out how difficult it is for others to learn about us is to apply for a job. On a few sheets of paper and in a few minutes of interview time an applicant must convey who he is and what he represents as a person as well as how suitable he is for the job. No one I have ever met has left an interview feeling confident that he or she has summed themselves up satisfactorily under those circumstances.

We are so different that we often have trouble conducting a conversation with others because we think so differently, our experiences are so different, our interests so different, our world view so unique that we must turn to small talk to get through brief periods that might otherwise be awkward.

Yet we hold much in common other than our genetic material, our language and our culture. Over six billion of us believe that something supernatural exists, that we should not kill each other, that we should work together where possible to achieve greater goals and that we should help others with needs greater than our own.

As a social species, we each feel the need to communicate with each other and we have a need to be touched by others we care about. In general, we believe that life should continue and that humankind should not destroy either itself or other forms of life on our planet. We believe that neither we nor others should foul our environment, the place where we and so many other living things carry out our lives.

With today’s technology we can communicate with others on the far side of our planet, in realtime. As we do, we learn that the “foreigners” that we know so little about have much in common with us. Some of us, in such situations, seem reluctant to point out our differences, believing that what we have in common is more important and our differences of lesser significance.

No matter who we are or where we live, we each strive for something in our lives. Among other life forms we call it survival and reproduction. Yet among ourselves the striving seems greater, to establish that we are, that we exist, that we mean more than a simple organism for reproduction.

The confusion that many of us experience in our “common sea” causes some of us to behave in ways that cannot make us proud of ourselves as a species. Yet all around us, on every day, in every part of the world, many of us–largely unhearalded–show ourselves to be magnificent and special representatives of what we know as human life.

We do demonstrate that there is more to us than our genetics and our experiences. We can each do that if we believe ourselves capable of it.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to give each person a chance to be special.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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