Islands are no longer bound up so immediately with a self-sufficient agrarian life, its rituals and the cultivation of social solidarity. They instead begin to function as an antidote to the increasing division of labor and social stratification of the mainland. For modern islanders their environment functions as a vehicle for the display of individual temperament, talent, and interest, which runs against the grain of a standardized mainland global consumer culture. Islands therefore become loci of the impress of distinctive personality, interest, and emotion in sensuous production. In particular, they often function as a font of individual artistic production compared with the old rituals and epics, such as the poems of Homer, primeval biblical history and the Icelandic sagas, which linked everyone to common ways of life.

An important resource for modern islanders is nature. What we seek on islands is what we love in nature. Friedrich Schiller described this missing element in modern life, as "a modest flower, a stream, a mossy stone, the chirping of birds, the humming of bees, and the like" as well as "in children" and "in the customs of country folk". We value "the silent creativity of life in them, the fact that they act serenely on their own, being there according to their own laws; we cherish that inner necessity, that eternal oneness with themselves."' In contrast, humankind the world over grows up within richly articulated social systems with intense division of labor, and hence with opposed social roles that are relatively opaque to one another. We are aware of living not just as a human being naturally lives, but within one or another specific social role, against a wide background of possibilities, where it is not always clear why that role exists, what its value is, or how to fulfill it well. Anxiety about one's social role, its basis, and its value is likely to drive creative artists to islands to "work as an isolated means of 'self-expression- without clear social function. Where once the making of island art was an integral part of knowing and worshipping and reproducing social life from generation to generation, it is now optional -freely, gloriously, and individually so, but also freighted with anxiety.

It may well be an expression of modern social anxiety that we represent or imagine the lives of children and primitive peoples to be natural, serene, and dominated by inner necessity, like the chirping of birds. Islands seem to be a way of achieving oneness with oneself or at-homeness within a social role, so as to act "serenely" and with "inner necessity". Perhaps technologically more primitive human lives and the lives of children were never quite like that. Yet our imagination or representation that they were so indicates the intensity of our longing for fuller sensuous meaningfulness and at-homeness.

Eldridge, R. (2003) An introduction to the philosophy of art, Cambridge