How to (not) be an island…

how to (not) be an island
Photo by Riccardo on

Earlier this week I submitted another article to The Tattooed Buddha. I’m not sure when, or if, it’ll go live there, but here’s a small excerpt from the essay highlighting the various joys and pitfalls of (not) being an island. If the article gets published I’ll update this post with the link. If it doesn’t, I’ll probably end up posting the entirely of the writing as a separate blog-post. **(I’m true to my word – you can read the full article here)

The poet John Donne said that “no man is an island.” And, in the Buddha’s final teaching he said to be an island, to “be islands unto yourselves, to “be your own refuge.” But, I think I misunderstood them both. I think there was always a middle way, and I’ve missed it more times than I care to admit. I’ve gone through so much over the past few years, become so insular, so closed-off, so inward gazing that it’s become easier to keep quiet, to keep to myself, to be my own refuge, to be my only refuge.

I have a complicated relationship to community. As I’ve moved, and morphed, and grown, and shifted, I’ve seen many of the connections formed in certain communities fall away. Time and again, I’ve been unable to engage in contexts that I found myself philosophically, intellectually, and spiritually at odds with. Bonds broke. Relationships severed. And youthful idealism gave way to cynicism and disbelief. In the process, I discovered how the connections and relationships that build up around a marriage end when the marriage does too. No vow of fealty, whether spoken or unspoken, whether of friendship or matrimony, is immune from falling apart. 

I’ve gotten to be very good at being an island. Earth adrift on open water. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be connected. Forgotten how to be tethered. Forgotten the touch of land. But, I still believe. I believe in belonging. I believe in belonging the way a prisoner longs for freedom. The way the orphan hopes for welcome, the widow looks for comfort, and stranger searches for shelter. The way a refugee dreams of coming home; an unattainable yearning to find a way back to being whole.


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