You Are Not An Island: The Wisdom of Simon, Garfunkel, and my Mother.

“You are not an island, you know.”

That’s what my mother used to tell me. It was usually after I was upset about something and upset that I was upset. I’d glare at her, like teenage daughters often do. And she’d stroke my hair and smile as mothers often do.

“There’s a song about that,” she’d say with a smile.

I’d roll my eyes. I really didn’t care if there was a song about it or not. I didn’t care about what Simon & Garfunkel had to say about the matter. It’s too bad, because their song mirrored the message that I always tried to convince myself of. And it was absurd.

…I am a rock, I am an island.

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

In my teenage years, that’s what I wanted. Even in my early 20s. I didn’t want pain. I wanted people without the vulnerability that came with them.

Simon, Garfunkel, and my mother were on to something. It’s so easy to try to convince ourselves that we don’t need other people. That we can pull ourselves up from our bootstraps. That we can compartmentalize our emotions and will ourselves to man (or woman?) up and stay stoic.

But the fact of the matter is that we were created for community. From the beginning of time, God fashioned us in a way that craves community. That’s just how we are wired.

Christians weren’t meant to be communities of Lone Rangers, riding out into the sunset with at least fifty yards between horses. We weren’t created to be rocks or islands. If anything, we were created to be pebbles.

Yes, pebbles.

Pebbles are the rocks that have hung out together. Their rough edges have been worn off and they have slowly changed shape through interaction with other pebbles. That’s the kind of community the writers of the New Testament called us to have. The book of Acts is filled with community – Christ followers living in close quarters, working, playing, eating, worshiping together. It wasn’t supposed to be picture perfect. I think God knew that it was going to get messy. That we’d get our feelings hurt. That we’d cry, say things we probably shouldn’t, and wish we could just tell everyone off without having to deal with the repercussions.

But that’s how He created us anyway.

I think C.S. Lewis put it best when he described a heart that tries to be an island.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

Would you rather be an island or a pebble?

6 Responses to “You Are Not An Island: The Wisdom of Simon, Garfunkel, and my Mother.”
  1. Judy Watters says:

    Great analogy. It’s so true. We are pebbles, or should be. As each of us wear away the other person’s rough edges we become easier to be around (I hope). I like that. Think I will use that with my students at school.
    Thanks Caitlin

  2. Hannah says:

    Let me just say this was very, very timely for me. Whew! It was hard for me to hear, but I want to thank you for speaking out on this, Caitlin.

    • caitlinmuir says:

      Hannah – I don’t know if the message ever gets easier to swallow! It’s one of those things that you can know in your head but when it comes to your heart…it gets tricky!

  3. Shawn Cohen says:

    This is one of my fave Simon and Garfunkel songs. As is Old Friends–similar message. I’ve always wondered what the analogy is between tears and an island.

    Regardless, true statement. Any connection we make with someone else is a risk we take and we might get burned. But was it worth it? 9 times out of 10, it will be.

    Go big or go home.

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