An isolated island, around 630 km from the western coast of New Zealand, Monuriki is nothing less than a paradise with its blue lagoon, white sands, and natural habitat. But the hidden paradise can become an apparition of hell if you find yourself stranded on it. Like Chuck Noland—played by Tom Hanks in Cast Away—who is marooned on Monuriki for over four years after a plane crash, where he not only loses touch with mankind but also with his sanity. Surrounded by the ocean, with only coconut and rainwater to survive on, it is the isolation that he is most scared of. To avoid loneliness, Noland befriends a volleyball. He even draws a face on it and gives it a name—Wilson. Wilson gives Noland a reason to stay sane until he plans to escape Monuriki.
That’s what isolation does to humans. Since the pre-historic era, man is living in settlements. Philosophers, thinkers, and poets have captured in their works the importance of living in groups and how it impacts an individual’s life. “Man is by nature a social animal,” said the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. What he said hundreds of years ago holds true even today and will continue to do so as long as human civilisation exists. It is a reality no individual can escape from. Why? Because humans cannot ‘live’ like an island—in isolation, disconnected from the rest of the world. To thrive and prosper in life, we need human connection, a sense of belongingness, and a community where people can interact and socialise.
This raises an important question. Why do we need society? Since the pre-historic era, man is living in settlements. In his theatre essay, ‘The shadow of the Gods’ American playwright, Arthur Miller writes: “Society is inside of man and man is inside society, and you cannot even create a truthfully drawn psychological entity on the stage until you understand his social relations and their power to make him what he is and to prevent him from being what he is not.” Miller’s notion of the interdependence of a society and an individual—that both grow together—has become a talking point for many experts and their studies.
So, what happens when an individual drifts away from human connection? In their research ‘Relation between Individual and Society’, sociologists FM Anayet Hossain and MD Korban Ali wrote: “Society liberates and limits the activities of men and it is a necessary condition of every human being, and need to fulfillment of life. Society is a system of usages and procedures of authority and mutual aid many divisions of controls of human behavior and of liberties… Society exists only where social beings “behave” toward one another in ways determined by their recognition of one another.” To test the limits of his mind, professional poker player Rich Alati agreed to live in solitary confinement for 30 days. For a month he had to live in a small room, with only essentials and no human company. On day 21, when he realised he couldn’t bear it anymore, Alati opted for an early eviction.