No Man is an Island Jack

In 1986, Robin Williams starred in a movie of great acclaim, Club Paradise. The title of this post, a line from that movie, is my homage to the film and to the fact that real men need other men.

This line has stuck with me through my life mainly because of its humor. There’s a scene in the movie where one of the characters tells Robin Williams (whose name is Jack) that, “No man is an island, Jack.” Another one of the characters hears this line, doesn’t realize there’s a comma in there or that it’s a famous quote, and immediately makes a song out of it. “No man is an island, Jack.” becomes “No man is an Island Jack” and Island Jack is born.

While the Club Paradise movie may or may not be the best inspiration for a blog post on what constitutes a real man, that famous line from it certainly is.

While times of solitude are certainly important for real men, a real man knows that he is not an island and that he needs friendships with other men if he’s going to make it in this life.

The problem with our culture in the U.S. is that too many of us are caught up in the false notion of independence as a virtue. If you don’t believe me, just take a few minutes and think about the title of the document that kicked off the revolutionary war that started our country. (The funny thing about the Declaration of INDEPENDENCE was that it actually required a great solidarity among men to make it happen and carry it out to fruition… but we forget that today sometimes.)

In today’s world, and for the last couple hundred years, men have been taught to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and to make their own way. It’s the whole, “Go west young man, go west!” idea played out to its worst extremes.

And yet the reality remains that men need other men. The earliest people to inhabit this earth knew this instinctively. As a matter of fact, for most of human history, with the last few hundred years being the exception, people lived together in tribes. In the grand scheme of things, the idea of the independent and self-made man is a relatively new (and largely unproven) idea.

Life is going to be difficult at times and the people who depend on us need us to be strong men who go to bat for them and get us through those times. When life goes to crap, we only have so much inherent strength within us that we can draw from to make it through. When that strength is depleted, where will you go to replenish yours? Don’t put that on the woman in your life. It’s not her burden to bear. No, when life requires more strength than we as individual men can muster, we need to draw from the fellowship of other men who have been through whatever it is that’s depleting our strength.

When life get’s tough, we need other men who know us to the core. We all have friends who know us to some degree, but when life requires great strength, we need men who know our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Men who will call us out when they see us on the verge of making a colossal mistake. Men who will lift us up when we fail and stand beside us in adversity.

Do you have men like that in your life? Does your life look more tribal or more nomadic? If you answered nomadic, I encourage you to find other men who also realize that life is a journey and that journeys are not meant to be taken alone.

I think this idea is part of what made the men of the Greatest Generation so great. The men of that generation went to war together. They fought the enemy and the elements together. At times they slept back to back in foxholes at night supporting each other. They never left another man behind. And despite how the horrors of war impacted many of them in negative ways, they developed a great appreciation for the value of fellowship with other men.

I want to be the kind of man who has deep bonds of friendship with other men. I want men in my life who know my struggles, who know my strengths, and who aren’t afraid to run out onto the battlefield and pull me back to safety when they see me wounded. And I want to do the same for them.

No man is an Island Jack but a group of islands is an archipelago… think about it.

*Thank you Jimmy Cliff for the sweet reggae.

You can find more “Finding Manhood” essays here.