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No man is an island

Posted by on April 23, 2008

Though you can come close if your name happens to be Cuba, but then you’d have to be socialist or a black actor, and both come with their own bag of problems.

But I digress; I’ve found since I have been working from home, I spend less time fantasizing about a madman murdering my colleagues and more time figuring out the “little things”. I was on a call with a client from Siemens Germany, when he started to go off the philosophical deep end today. Usually these conversations are right up my alley, but today I took that time to sort through some of the pictures on my desktop, all the while keeping up with the “Umm hmms”, “Oh for sure”, “I understand” and my personal fav. “To be honest, I’ve never thought of it from that perspective”. That last one surprisingly covers a lot more topics than you’d think,

So I’m scanning through pictures from moments gone by, when I worked in the UK , road trips with friends, multiple Eurotrips, my time in Barcelona, and of course all the random pictures shot throughout the years celebrating birthdays, going away parties, welcome home parties, and well…every Saturday night.

When German Plato finally decided I could have my life back 40 minutes later I continued walking down digital memory lane and realized a few things; 1. I really need to pay someone to organize these 2. Never take a picture after 2am. Nobody wants a memory (see: evidence) of that.

…and #3. What I eventually arrived at was that the majority of our lives are shaped by the people we meet and those we allow into our lives. I use the word allow because essentially we always have the ability to choose who we surround ourselves with. We can either cherish, tolerate or banish those in our lives. We all have our faults, just as we all likely have stories and reasons behind those faults. So though it may not be right to judge people absolutely for their misgivings, we do have the right to choose if we’d like these people to be the ones we spend our days with.

As much as I can, I TRY not to judge people. I understand that everyone has their own set of extenuating circumstances to deal with, and essentially everyone is simply a product of both their DNA and their environment. I don’t believe in the nature vs.nurture debate. There’s always too much grey area to ever come to a conclusion. So, I try not to mentally crucify anyone for who they are, or the way they may think, and there’s certainly no point in trying to change someone, its who they are. But with that being said, I am a strong believer in surrounding yourself with people that challenge you to be a better person, to take an extra step in life when you’d otherwise take a nap.

The best part, is that you never know when another one of these people will walk into your life. I have some friends that believe faithfully in the rule that the longer you’ve known someone the better of a friend they are. Personally, I think that’s bullshit. Some of my closest and most loyal of friends I’ve only known since university, and a select group of others have come about in the last few years.

I think sometimes we forget, or at least take for granted the value and importance of continuing to meet new people throughout our lives. Its not that these passers-by need be added to the constants we’ve already chosen, but its another story, another perspective that I believe add to our perpetual growth and wisdom. Reality is but an ever changing viewpoint. A kaleidescope of perceptions, none of which will ever be accurate. So to continually meet and converse with different people gives us a different piece to the puzzle we live in. A puzzle that can never be solved, but each encounter leads us a little further away from ignorance, not to mention our own ego-centric opinions.

In terms of perspective let me give you an example; When I lived in London, England there was one other guy, like myself, that had been transfered from his main office to work in the UK. So like grade school, the two new kids with no friends stuck together. This guy was a soft-spoken Macedonian schooled throughout the US; and as our hours were from 12-8pm everyday, we found ourselves taking many the hetero-moonlit stroll while searching for either a non-fish and chip venue to eat or an arcade to blow 20 bucks and get an ice cream. Like I said, grade school. When we first started hanging out I was the guy that would be all stressed from a long day on the sales floor, talking about business, and walking at a pace that would rival most Olympian Kenyans. But one evening as we stepped out of work I hear, “Where the hell are you always rushing to? Mike, your blood may be Italian but you sure as hell walk like a North American.” And that’s the day I learned to walk like a Macedonian. Hand in one pocket, nowhere to be, and not a care in the world. My favourite saying of his was, “Whats the big deal? Its just money, you can always make more.” You would be surprised how one simple sentence and slowing in pace completely changes the view of your landscape and your frame of mind. Kidding aside, my buddy actually had me practice this walk each time we went out as I’d start motoring through the crowds again. I suppose old habits are hard to break.

This is what I meant by new perspectives. Its such a small moment in my life, with a dude I haven’t seen in three years, but its a memory I cannot (and wouldn’t want to) shake. And it was this memory that provided me with one of my favourite experiences in Barcelona as well. I had just stepped out of a Starbucks, and with a tea in hand and nothing to do I started rushing down the street; until I could’ve sworn, like a bad TV movie I heard, “Mike, where the hell are you rushing to?” So I stopped, laughed, and slowed down my pace about 90% and just enjoyed the evening. I started looking at the people around me, the buildings, the architecture, and for the first time since I landed in Spain I took the time to appreciate where I was and how lucky I was to be there. And I have no one other than my Macedonian brother to thank for that.

All I’m saying is that its never a bad idea to meet someone new. The truth of the matter, besides exposing yourself to something outside your comfort zone, you’d be surprised of how much of yourself you can find in the strangest of strangers.

No man is an island…

“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.

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