.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Friday, February 24, 2006


Here is my newspaper column for next week. I really don't like the title - a prize to whoever gives me a better one (really!). Other comments welcome too of course.


Many years ago I worked above the Arctic Circle. In my six-month tour of duty, I met few people, and almost all were other men. I didn't feel particularly at ease with many of them. Maybe it was generational (me young - them old) or maybe it was the drinking and gambling (me dry - them drunk), but I found myself alone most of my non-working hours.

I took advantage of this to read book after book, to write letters and stories - and to take long hikes under the twilight sky in the wee hours of the night. However, it wasn't many weeks before I felt lonely and isolated - I believe I experienced mild depression. When it came time to return to the 'world', or to sign up for another stint,I was soon packed and pacing the tundra, waiting for the Boeing 737 to rescue me.

It's rare that people choose to spend their lives alone - even the monks and priests I've known have been excellent social company and have lived in groups. It's not surprising that prison inmates are punished through solitary confinement and torturers and other thugs use isolation as a means to break down human will.

Most of us are social beings, with a strong need to share our lives with family and friends, in communities of one sort or another. Writers, philosophers, psychiatrists, my mother and my barber all know that this is healthy behaviour. According to Dr. Ron Dovell, researcher for Interior Health, "After 25 years of study, scientific research is also telling us that there is a clear link between social relationships and health. In addition to providing a sense of satisfaction and well being - social connections act as a buffer against a host of health problems. The reverse is true also - social exclusion can be bad for our health."

Lack of social integration has been linked to depression and stress-related conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic pain syndromes and related chronic conditions. Any life situation that isolates people can adversely affect their health. For example, a divorce can lead to isolation of one or both spouses; the death of a spouse can hasten the death of the survivor - one reason why seniors are more prone to the stress of isolation.

It's also known now that children who have learning disabilities that prevent them from interacting with their peers, as well as those whose families move often, preventing the development of long-term relationships, are also susceptible to depression and stress-related conditions. Dr. Dovell notes, "Other research confirms that poverty is both a cause and product of social exclusion. The experience of poverty can lead to stigmatization and isolation from civic society."

The message is clear: there's great value in belonging and in feeling connected to each other. There's now strong evidence that social connections improve physical and mental health, and may prolong life. Perhaps happiness, health and a long life have more to do with connections to family, friends and community than to money, career and attaining things or experiences. To me, that's useful information - if I go to the Arctic again, I'm not going alone.

While not referring directly to health, American archaeologist Howard Winters put it this way, "Civilization is the process in which one gradually increases the number of people included in the term 'we' or 'us' and at the same time decreases those labeled 'you' or 'them' until that category has no one left in it."

Two came to mind:

Out in the Cold

Have You Ever Been Lonely?

It's a terrific article, Gary. I think I say this every time, but this is my favorite one to date. (I'm working on a mid-term question right now about inclusion of children with learning disabilities. Synchronicity?)
"Connected for life?"

Great writing, nothing more to say..
Great article, but it makes me feel a bit lonely. Then again, most things these days make me feel lonely.
I don't know why I thought of that commercial about teaching the world to sing, but what I came up with was imperfect harmony.
Something else you guys just won a bronze medal on the 10 km ice skating. Hurray for Cindy Classen!
And Canadian Clara Huges got gold. Darn, normally the Dutch ladies divide the plaques but Canadian gals rock too this year :-)
Thanks for the ideas so far (and thanks for acknowleding our skaters Dimitri).

Miss Cellania - I'm sorry if this piece makes you sad and hope that you find hope and love just ahead - you're a good person.

Julian - let me know if you want the reference articles on children.
Interesting article, Gary, as usual. It's wonderfully written. Thinking about titles:

Mingle. . . It's Healthy

Socialization Promotes Better Health

You Can't Do It Alone

Just some thoughts. I am bad with titles, for the most part.
This post reminded me of how important it is in buddhism to be connected to a Sangha. The progress of our studies is much quicker when shared.. I guess that applies in all aspects of life.
I like your column, Gary.
Here are my suggested titles:
Our Shared Humanity
Sharing our Humanity
or something of the like. And I think that's very much what we do here in our blogging.
Which got me to thinking how nice it would be if we could all get together around a campfire 2 or 3 times a week to share our stories, exchange insights, etc.; and that, as an indication of our technological advancement, the soft glow of the monitor substitutes for the campfire, and in exchange we have the opportunity to look beyond our immediate vicinity, and need not make such onerous travel arrangements. Comfort is key in our new world.
But the connection feeds both ends of the connection, much like sending an electrical current through a wire generates back-EMF.
As usual, I'm off on a tangent. I was thinking about poverty and isolation, etc..

They form gangs with closer ties to each other than their own families.

Good article.
Hi Gary

I like the column.

I would like to se a title which includes the words "Social Security" , as I think our interaction provides that security, particually as mostly its suportive.

A Title then "Social Security "

Best wishes
Another great article, Gary. Anywhere in the world you haven't lived?
Gary, I am interested in those articles, thanks.

I still like "Out in the Cold."
Well how about the age old - 'No man is an island'?
"North of Nirvana"
great message, Gary, well written.

I don't know about title, mine always are a bit facetious...

Two's Company, Three's Almost Civilization.

with a nod to the Donne...

Why Be An Island When You Can Form An Archipelago.

sorry, I'll get back if I think of something. :o)
Can a man escape the "we" if he has a revolutionary, visionary, independant, superior, better, smarter, more liberal idea than the established "we". This "we" could easily collapse into a USSR redux.

"The In Crowd" sounds good for the story.
Bohemiantroubadour - you often have cryptic and interesting comments. Thanks.

Julian, if you want the draft article that I got some of this information from (with references) - just send me an email to use.

I've had to make a tough choice for the prize (among such great title offerings)... so I've made 2 choices

1. Progressive Traditionalist wins for SHARING OUR HUMANITY (it's catchy and a lead in to the content)- I like his blogger campfire metaphor too, that's unrelated to the prize.

2. Ian Russell wins 2nd prize for his humour: TWO'S COMPANY, THREE'S ALMOST CIVILIZATION and the ever-popular WHY BE AN ISLAND WHEN YOU CAN BE AN ARCHIPELAGO?

If you winners email me a postal address, your very exciting prizes will be in the mail shortly.

And I really liked "Out in the Cold." (Sniff)
I think I'd better write something else now that can be titled "Out in the Cold" Maybe it can be about men not knowing how to listen and always trying to fix everything...I've heard that some of them do that!
really?! that's the first time I've won anything since I won a £3 transistor radio in a tombola at school - it was the last prize drawn and I must have spent £4 in tickets to win it.

I hope you can sing the British National Anthem, Gary, cos I'm standing on the podium right now...

(oh, they don't sing it for second do they? d'oh!) ;o)
Hey Ian - don't forget to send me a mailing address.

We sing God Save the Queen as well as Oh Canada around here! I'm hum it for you.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?