Is Every Man a Castaway on their own Island?

Are you a sister, mother, daughter, lover, wife, colleague or friend trying to connect with a man who is distant. Are you a man who feels like stranded on an island and can’t find a way to communicate? You’re not alone.  

“No man is an Island…” – John Donne

cast·a·way [ˈkɑːstəˌweɪ]

                        1. Cast adrift or ashore; shipwrecked.
                        2. A shipwrecked person.
                        3. A rejected or discarded person or thing.
                        4. A 2000 film staring Tom Hanks as a man stranded on an island.
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If you haven’t seen it, Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a FedEx systems analyst that is obsessed with time, and finds himself spending four years of time stranded on a island after his plane crashes in the middle of the ocean.

Alone.

My Grade 11 English teacher first introduced me to the ‘No Man is an Island’ quote. I got what English poet Donne was saying: we are all directly or indirectly connected and our actions affect one another accordingly. While this is a core belief of mine, I remember reading that lonely quote set adrift on the chalkboard and thinking to myself ‘but Men are islands…

I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

– Simon and Garfunkel, I Am A Rock

Just like when you first put a seashell to your ear, does something sound familiar to you? Does this sound like a man, young man or boy in your life? Does this sound like you? Someone is trying to reach you, trying to find you, looking for you, but you are not there.

Sending out an SOS

Maybe you are desperate to reach out to someone walled up in a internal fortress. Maybe you are hoping to find their message in a bottle. Maybe you are hoping for that breakthrough with your son, father, lover or friend.

Sending out an SOS

Maybe you are trying to connect and communicate. So many young men today are lost or stranded in a deserted island of manhood, and don’t know how to get in touch. Boys, at any age, desperate to find a way back but don’t know if they ever will.

Sending out an SOS

Maybe you found that one person to open up to, but they drifted away.

“What people forget is a journey to nowhere
starts with a single step, too.” 

― Chuck PalahniukSurvivor

Some have tried to reach out and are adrift at sea, dehydrated of hope and drifting, helplessly in need of being rescued.

 They put me in a situation forcin’ me to be a man
When I was just learnin’ to stand without a helpin’ hand

I’m slippin’ I’m fallin’ I gots to get up
Get me back on my feet so I can tear shit up

– DMX – Slippin’

When we think of men telling a story, you might imagine the story is loud, embellished, action-packed, or over-the top. What I love about Castaway is how it allows the story to breathe and move like a slow moving ripple in the water. There are volumes of words expressed with no words, just long, beautiful moments of silence. Men spend much time in silence: silence among others, or stranded within themselves. Years spent holding onto something from the past, alone on an island of anger. Emotionally missing, lost within your own world, or consumed, obsessed with the pursuit of something we can’t find. Sometimes a man needs to lose himself, to find himself.

Just a castaway
An island lost at sea
Another lonely day
With no one here but me
More loneliness
Than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair

I’ll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle

Sending out an SOS
Sending out an SOS

 In the movie, Chuck uses an Analemma (a solstice calendar) to keep track of the days, weeks, months and years that go by as he is stranded.
 A man obsessed with time, Chuck insists on keeping track of it. Many of us are all about being organized, well-planned and having things calculated. What will we do with the seemingly limitless, but limited amount of time we do have. Here is an unforgettable scene where Chuck Noland reflects on a dark, ultimate calculation and where he goes from here. 
.
 “We both had done the math. Kelly added it all up and knew she had to let me go. I added it up, and knew that I had lost her. ‘cos I was never gonna get off that island. I was gonna die there, totally alone…The only choice I had, the only thing I could control was when, and how, and where it was going to happen. So, I made a rope and I went up to the summit, to hang myself. I had to test it, you know? Of course. You know me. And the weight of the log, snapped the limb of the tree, so I, I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass… And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”


So, which direction are you headed now? Are you setting a course, or adrift travelling whichever way the wind blows? At any given moment, we are standing at a crossroads. We can go one way and find Our way, or we can go another and drift further out to sea. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help, admit you need help. It’s never too late to talk, to open up, to let go. Chuck Noland started by opened up to a volleyball. I know, but hey, it’s a start.

It’s never too late for a fresh start.

So, which way are you headed?

_______________________

Jeff Perera has spoken to people from all walks of life for over 6 years (from organizations to community spaces to grade school, high school and post-secondary students) about how society’s unattainable concepts of masculinity are effecting men and boys as well as impacting women and girls.  He has delivered two TEDx talks on Masculinity and men’s toxic pursuits of identity: Words Speak Louder Than Actions and The Ladder of Manhood. Jeff started Higher Unlearning, as an online space to explore how ideas of gender and masculinity play out in everyday life where we work, live and study.

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