John Donne’s (1572-1631) quotation, “No Man is an island,” appeared in Devotions upon emergent occasions and seuerall steps in my sicknes – Meditation XVII, 1624. That verbally ponderous, yet sage, reference proclaimed:
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…
As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….
“No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Although Donne was a practicing Christian, his concept of connection, that communion with fellow man, is shared by other religions, principally Buddhism.
Connection is key. While people gathered in a group may provoke conflict, that same environment often provides valuable support systems and potential help. It offers a sense of connection, one of the most important of human needs. We are social creatures. It is as much a part of our DNA as survival and procreation. For the majority of us, true happiness and fulfillment result from being surrounded by friends, associates, family, or an extended family structure, individuals with whom one can socialize and communicate with.
People need people. That belief is universally accepted and shared by others. It has become the gold standard. “People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world,” sang Barbara Streisand in 1964. The song, from the Broadway musical Funny Girl, resonated with a public who identified themselves as “the luckiest people in the world.” The song quickly became Streisand’s first major pop hit, peaking at #5, as it musically affirmed what many of us already knew.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the topic. H.A.L.T. is often articulated by Friends of Bill W. and those who frequent the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. H.A.L.T. is a self-help acronym that teaches, Don’t allow yourself to get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired. As the Grapevine publication instructs, “Don’t get too lonely. Nonalcoholic members of the psychiatric profession tend to equate loneliness with boredom, and we are inclined to agree. If there is any one thing that must be included in the alcoholic’s life before he can once again become a whole man it is worthwhile activity. This may be Twelfth Step work, his vocation, his avocation, or anything else. But we feel such activity must be present in order to fulfill his existence and eliminate loneliness. We must also consider the loneliness brought about because the newcomer lives alone. But this is easily rectified. It takes only a phone call or a visit to an AA-oriented social club. Or, for the AA Loner, or other members, the Big Book or a letter to an AA pen pal may suffice. Under any conditions, Loneliness is the mother of self-pity and the ultimate end is resentment and drinking. The rule of Thumb? Do something.”
Loneliness is a curse. There are few who can live in solitude, alone and detached from fellow man. Human beings do better when they interact with one another.
Those who are isolated and devoid of human interaction may stagnate and suffer from emotional insecurity and self-doubt; their existence a bleak and unfulfilled life. Marano points out that, “a lack of close friends and a dearth of broader social contact generally bring the emotional discomfort or distress known as loneliness.
It begins with an awareness of a deficiency of relationships. This cognitive awareness plays through our brain with an emotional soundtrack. It makes us sad. We might feel emptiness. We may be filled with a longing for contact. We feel isolated, distanced from others and deprived. These feelings tear away at our emotional well-being.”
There are exceptions to the rule. Consider the grouping of ascetics, monks, and holy men who chant, pray and meditate in silence. They converse only with their God, reaching exquisite states of ecstasy. St. Teresa of Ávila distinguished four stages of mystical prayer. St. Teresa described this Roman Catholic mystical experience in terms of three categories. “Ecstasy” appears gradually or quietly. “Rapture” is an experience of the same content when its onset is violent and sudden. Lastly, the “flight of the soul” is rapture with the specific content of an out-of-body experience. These alternate states or trance states are believed to be the result of repetitive prayer and meditation and aloneness.
Happiness thrives in groups. Churchgoers are an illustration of a gathering that may be happier because they belong to an extended family with social interaction, community, and shared values. Individuals who have no family may reach out and embrace an extended community of like-minded persons, developing a strong, fraternal unit and infrastructure. Like Sly said, “It’s a family affair.” m
Addressing the importance of that connection, Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explained, “We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.”
In 1943, American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) developed a template that outlined a strategy for human evolvement and evolution. His “hierarchy of needs,” and specifically his third level — what he called “Belongingness and love needs” — recognized the importance of connection. Maslow reasoned, “As social beings, family, friendships and intimate connections get many people through the ups and downs of life. Numerous studies have shown that the healthiest, happiest people tend to be more involved in their communities. While there is debate on whether one causes the other is unclear, there is some sense that having wider social connections and relationships are an important part of being happy.
Lack of emotional connection to others can produce detriments in the ability of the individual to connect with others. Friendship, intimacy and family are types of needs that categorize the third level.”
But Maslow also imparted a warning. He said: “Lack of interactions, human relationships and the sense of belonging may result in depression or loneliness while an abundance of love and community often sustain people through difficult times.”
References Provided Upon Request
Maxim W. Furek is a competitive athlete and published author. His rich background includes aspects of psychology, addictions, mental health and music journalism. His latest book Sheppton: The Myth, Miracle & Music explores the psychological and spiritual trauma of being trapped alive and is available at Amazon.com