The Big O

Day 7 without getting beaten up for being some sort of transatlantic nonce. I’m going to have to stop this count. It feels like I’m tempting fate, and, what’s more, we’re going to Glasgow tonight.

Figure that out, subway nerds.

Beth mentioned the other day that she’s enjoying proper sit-down dinners at the dining room table. The other day, Paw Broon suggested that we might like music with dinner, and threw on some Roy Orbison. For the kids, Roy Orbison was like the 1960s Morrissey:

While most men in rock and roll in the 1950s and 1960s portrayed a defiant masculinity, many of Orbison’s songs instead conveyed a quiet, desperate vulnerability. He was known for performing while standing still and solitary, wearing black clothes and dark sunglasses which lent an air of mystery to his persona. [Wiki]

And the quiff, too!

Of course, this would make Mozzer the 1980s Roy Orbison. Which means that any time now, we should be seeing a Wilburys-style supergroup of Steven Patrick, Ian Curtis, Jeff Buckley and Kurt Cobain. Good-time fun.

In a Moz-tastic style, Roy once sang “Dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah” “Only the lonely / Know this feelin’ ain’t right.” Conversely, we may be 3,300 miles from our friends of recent years, but through the magic of social media, I’d don’t feel disconnected. Ain’t twitter grand? Last night, I was able to discuss with NYC pals the phenomenon of “racketeering eunuchs,” and whether this is “something you are, or something you do.” Before reading the views of Caitlin Moran, The Queen Of Twitter, on cookies biscuits.

When I started on The Twitter, Stephen Fry was Britain’s reigning King Of Twitter, according to Mitch Benn’s Twitter EP.

… und zee e-mails!

Its turns out that Fry still has something to say on the tweetie box, when he’s not writing something so toe-curlingly ill-considered that he has to use his position to ban himself for a few days. This week, he linked to this article in the New Republic. I’m going to discuss it for a bit, but if you consider yourself a compassionate or intellectually curious person, I urge you to read the piece in its entirety.

I recently disclosed that I’ve stopped answering the Proust Questionnaire questions “What is your greatest fear?” and “What is the lowest depth of misery?” with stuff about death. These days, I’m going with stuff about loneliness and locked-in syndrome. And it turns out those are pretty good answers. [Thanks, me!] In the New Republic piece, Judith Shulevitz describes Frieda Fromm-Reichmann‘s assertion “that the lonely person [is] just about the most terrifying spectacle in the world.” And with good reason, if we clarify that it’s loneliness that is terrifying, rather than the lonely — hate the disease, not the patient.

Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack…. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer — tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.

Another psychologist-turned-primatologist who studies the effects of loneliness on rhesus macaques, Steve Suomi, notes what a big deal this is: “The very fact that something outside the organism can affect the genes like that—it’s huge.”

“I macaque and I need to be loved/
Just like everybody else does”

Is it possible that loneliness contributed to my stroke? Possibly. “Real loneliness”, as described by Fromm-Reichmann, is a subjective condition. John Cacioppo, the current leading psychologist on the subject, would agree that loneliness “is not synonymous with being alone, nor does being with others guarantee protection from feelings of loneliness.” I may have found good friends and comfort in the years immediately preceding StrokeFest, but sitting in an office slaving away at financing documents, with only other lawyers and clients for occasional company, is hardly the definition of comfort.

On the other hand, lying alone in a hospital bed isn’t so bad when one can expect visitors and make contact on social media. Among the hard times, Beth still recalls fondly the look on my face when she would walk into my ward. “Oh, hi, baby!” I would exclaim, breaking into a huge grin. And it turns out, just as loneliness can genetically affect us adversely —

Even an act as simple as joining an athletic team or a church can lead to…’molecular remodeling.’

As Shulevitz writes, “loneliness research forces us to acknowledge our own extraordinary malleability in the face of social forces. This susceptibility is both terrifying and exhilarating.”

So, thanks to everyone who visited, tweeted, commented, wrote and “liked”. This week, please think about reaching out to a old friend or a family member. Go visit someone who’s been ailing. That’s my plan.

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