I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Cacioppo and his lovely wife a few years ago at a lecture he gave at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea Ohio. He was an intelligent, caring person. His book documents his life's work on loneliness. The book is part of his legacy. He past away earlier this month. The book reveals the all too often hidden devastating effects that loneliness has on people who is chronically alone. It demonstrates how being alone can lead to aging and declining health. Quoting Dr. Cacciopo from his book "Loneliness": The data tell us that loneliness seriously accelerates age-related declines in health and well-being, yet the idea of promoting connection is rarely discussed alongside the heated issues of the cost of pharmaceuticals and other medical interventions necessary to deal with an increasingly lonely, isolated, and agin population."
He adds: "Given the statistical impact of loneliness, if its effects were caused by an impurityin our air or water, perhaps now there would be congressional hearings on how to reduce it. Perhaps we can hope for a similar awakening to the idea, grounded in rigorous science, that restorning bonds among people can be cost-effective and practical point of leverage for solving some of our most pressing social problems, not the least of which is the looming crisis in health care and eldercare."
Dr. Cacioppo points out the need for a place for people to gather and demonstrates how places of faith worship have fulfilled that need in the past. "The type of Christianity tht went on to become the primary structural element of the Western world focused on a simple message of self-esteem - "The kingdom of God is within you" -- combined with communal meals and even communal living. Its streamlined theology set aside the complex cleansing rituals of Judaism, and it presented evil less in mystical terms and more as a question of the behavior of one person toward another. The church that survived and prospered extended the basic ethics of the Hebrew tradition -- already a strong source of social support -- explicitly into the individual's inner life, creating a prohibitions against mere thoughts that were harmful to social connections: anger, hatred, misdirected lust. It dispensed with the temple in Jerusalem as the center of religious life, but maintained rituals to sanctify the basic elements of ordinary human existence: reproduction (marriage), birth (baptism), illness (anointment), and death (last rites). By way of these ceremonies it provided guidelines for social connection throughout the life cycle, making this universal church a practical social convention; It offered self-worth, it buried the dead, and it provided for the poor. Like Judaism, Islam, Confucianism and Buddhism, Christianity regulated all social transactions with the community, ranging from relationships within marriage and the family to standards for conducting business and dealing with neighbors."
Social connections are life saving connections. When we gather with our family, friends and neighbors, we produce the "happiness hormone" Oxcytocin. When we are isolated, when we move far away from family, when we begin to age and lose the close contact with our children our friends, when we stop going to church because the beliefs we once held are no longer relevant to us, is when we begin our own decline. We need other people in our lives. It's as important to have people who care about us and who we care about as it is to have the very oxygen we breath in the air.
I am a technology buff. I love my Apple devices. However, after reading Loneliness, I have awakened my appreciation of and my awareness for the need to put those amazing devices in their separate compartments in my life. If we do not break the hold technology has on the majority of people today, we will suffer the coming consequences of being Avatar's instead of human beings.
I love and appreciate Dr. Cacioppo's work on loneliness. It's a topic all too often not only disregarded in todays fast paced society but an aspect of life that has faded into the background of the screens of our devices. We no longer sit on a porch on a warm summer evening sharing a cool drink or a beer with a couple of neighbors while the children play around us. We are all too busy checking our devices, making comments on Facebook, or playing video games. As Dr. Caccioppo points out people need real people in front of them - talking, laughing, sharing, learning from each other. We need to see their faces, feel their emotions, read their body language and feel their touch. Emoticon's are a very poor attempt to replace actual living human beings in our lives.
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: WW Norton & Co; 1 edition (10 August 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393335283
- ISBN-13: 978-0393335286
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.3 x 21.1 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 281 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 64,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)