“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of the infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.” — H.P. Lovecraft
Let’s talk about islands.
One of the four books I’m currently reading is Christopher Priest’s The Islanders. (Check it out in my Goodreads in the sidebar if you’re so inclined.) In short, The Islanders is a chronological catalog of certain islands in a large sprawling archipelago: their characteristic winds, climates, geographies, interspersed with stories pertaining to artists, writers, a mystifying murder, military operations, and so on. Each island is unique, notable, worthy. Each island has a personality, a ploy of secrets.
My first copy of the book bore the tagline All men are islands on the cover.
John Donne echoes back, No man is an island.
This is my second time reading the book, and as with almost every reread, I glean something new from the pages. I began to wonder how prominently islands figured in my life. I’ve vacationed on a couple, studied abroad for four months on an island country, plan to live on said island country. In textbooks, in hard fantasy books, tacked to classroom walls, the known boundaries of islands on maps always presented a strange comfort to me. Visible, viable constraints, embedded in the islanders’ psyche, known and understood. Traceable. Undeniably present.
Continents sprawl, hog space, strain to remain close to their fractured siblings. Islands seem so prim and quiet compared to those gigantic land masses. Yet some islands are outliers, observers of the mainlands. Even in island groups there’s one or two that stand aloof from the majority. The black sheep of the family, or the introspective one in a group of friends. In most cases, some islands are completely forgotten, nameless.
That is me.
There are some people that need to be islands. Some people need to construct a vast unknown sea around them. It is easier to map your life on an island than on a sea or continent. As an introvert, I know this all too well. Part of it is genetics, part of it is a personal choice. I’ve always felt myself irrevocably positioned outside the slipstream of communication and relationships. I try to comprehend what tells my mind to grow so dark, so anxious. I try to map what makes me tick, to find and draw the borders shrouded in the fog of wearying mental health issues. I try to map my self outside of the clamor of other, louder selves.
Why can’t it be easy to establish a self? To rise up like Cthulhu from great wide depths, the darkest places imaginable, and dry under a new sun, bristling in new skin, sure of existence and its limitations?
We would not know a self if securing one was simple. All men and women are islands, yes, but the self is limitless. The self is restless.
For the past couple years I’ve truly felt like an island. Unlike Lovecraft, I’ve attempted to understand certain events and moments that birthed within me a terrible dread of the future, and of fire. Like Lovecraft, some puzzle boxes of memory are best left unsolved, yet I fiddle with them night and day.
So I give you an island that bears my name. Plotting the island’s coordinates is useless, for this island is never fixed for long. Wear hiking shoes, as the terrain alters without warning. Stay hydrated. Personal weather is permissible but highly discouraged. The sun is largely impartial to existence and only makes brief appearances. You can expect to see the moon more often than not. Sometimes there are two moons.
For now, it’s only me on the island, and my fledgling self is the sea, stretching, hoping to expand beyond the world, to know what it is to be limitless.
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