‘No Man Is An Island’
The above is a popular quote that many may be familiar with; however, it is of interest to note that the quote itself is incomplete – the full quote by author John Donne goes ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent’. This reflects a quality of our species which parallels the idea of evolutionary psychology or biology, which posits that we have survived – or rallied, really – to the top of the food chain acting with the strengths of being a cohesive collective rather than an individual, as important as individualism is.
It seems more and more popular in today’s times that the importance of ‘just be yourself’ is highlighted, which is of course remarkably important, however, there seems to be a lack of addressing the usefulness of knowing what each individual’s role and impact is as part of a larger group, and then, society. There is another saying that this trend echoes – namely, losing sight of the forest for the trees. Strength as part of a group can improve a sense of civic consciousness – how many times have we seen the post up on social media whereby someone notices a simple act of generosity or kindness between two strangers and title the post as ‘hope in humanity restored’? A simple gesture of literally lending somebody a hand – helping someone cross a wide drain or helping someone buy a train ticket – may end up meaning so much more to the person who was in a pickle; but it can also boost the mood of the helper.
In schools, there is an on-going practice of ‘gotong royong’ whereby a group comes together to fix or clean up a section/ portion of the school. The work promotes so much more than the aesthetic and/or functional outcome of fixing a problematic area, it enhances group work, a sense of camaraderie, pride of community as well as working together to achieve a singular goal – the process accomplishes so much more as it helps solidify a set of values that individuals can identify as being part of the group; and they get to carry that core set of values long after finishing the project.
However, as the daily toll of being an adult takes place, the practice is not really as active, and absence of a positive community practice allows a vacuum whereby a sense of apathy can take place. In this month, as we celebrate our inspirational National Day, let’s take a look at how we can start in small ways to make someone’s day better. Sharing a meaningful blog post is literally a click away – along with the message of ‘thinking of you – have a good day!’ can be a tremendous boost - which can inspire an avalanche of positive ‘paying it forward’ behavior on the web. Or for those who can afford it, footing the bill for the toll-user after them is a remarkably kind move which can impact the person driving after them in a positive, healthy manner. That in the end, we can be capable of compassionate strength as a society. And we don’t just teach it in schools, we practice it as adults as well. Let’s give it more than a try – let’s make it a habit. And before long, it will become part of our culture and identity.
Happy Merdeka, everyone!