A Run on Costco/A Deadly Virus/Loneliness/A Distracted Generation
today at 10:03 am
While most of the world is preoccupied with the Coronavirus, I decided to revisit something I published a few years back. It kind of gets our minds to thinking about things that can kill us. I recently saw a photo at a local Costco in Chicago that showed aisle after aisle of empty toilet paper, water and hand sanitizer shelves completely bare. Folks are truly thinking. Certainly, the world is filled with enough things that are harmful and indeed there are the usual suspects that will kill us off much quicker than we would like.
However, a worldwide deadly virus commands the attention of the news media and accelerates our thinking about the thought of death and how we can survive. I somehow stumbled on a new theory by Ben Sasse, the Republican United States Senator from Nebraska, no less. However, after reading his theory in his recently published book called “Them-Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal” it most certainly grabbed my attention, more so after the great columnist and Cub Fan, (I had to throw that in of course) George Will, gave it some merit in a recent piece in the Tribune.
Sasse goes on to say that in the 1950s Americans stocked their imaginations with similar things. For example, he points out that 70% of all Americans tuned into, ready! “I Love Lucy.” Today he correctly points out that 93% of all Americans have access to more than 500 channels. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the average number of times Americans entertained at home declined almost 50% with the median American checking (according to a PEW survey) a smartphone every 4.3 minutes with nearly 40% of 18 to 29-year-olds online every waking minute.
The biggest common denominator is being distracted equals loneliness. The loneliness he states has reached epidemic like proportions and he further suggests that persistent loneliness reduces the average longevity in us, humans, more than twice as much as does heavy drinking and three times as much as obesity which often is a consequence of loneliness. Research demonstrates that loneliness is as physically dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and contributes to cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease.
I cannot argue with most of what the Senator says. I can see for myself the thousands of people the world over constantly looking into their phones or talking on them almost anywhere you go. The horrible surge in injuries and deaths for distracted drivers is proof enough. I wasn’t elected by the people to talk for them, so I can only speak for myself and maybe for my generation, but my iPhone and my computer has been such a wonderful happening for me in so many ways I can’t count them — a life changer indeed, but HOLD on, not the biggest one. This is not meant to be my story, but it may help anyone who can relate to this budding new theory that we are so distracted we have become lonely.
As a very young Marine, I was pulled aside by my Marine Gunny Sergeant who gave me a paperback book and barked into my face, “Marine, if you survive the next few years and read this book your life will always be fulfilled. When you take off the uniform and go home, you will go on to be a lot of things again; a son, a friend, a father, a husband, a partner, a good neighbor, a mentor. You have to be there for all of them when needed.” It was my Rudyard Kipling moment. I devoured “Meditations” by the great Roman leader, Marcus Aurelius, the father of stoicism. His personal writings were called Meditations. They are considered one of the greatest works of philosophy. He died in 180 AD but his words knock me down to this day. I’m sharing maybe for somebody who is lonely. “How to find happiness and peace when surrounded by misery, how to choose the harder right over the easier wrong.” It is the most essential book ever written on character, leadership, and duty. Indeed those Americans who served their country have heard the phrase — DUTY-HONOR-COUNTRY, Marcus Aurelius 177 AD.
His Meditations tell us to “bear in mind that the measure of a man is the worth of the things he cares about. If it is good to say or do something, then it is even better to be criticized for having said it. He asks himself, are my guiding principles healthy and robust? On this hangs everything.” For everyone in the Senator’s research and the PEW survey who may feel distracted and thinking that loneliness might eventually bring you down “I Love Lucy” is long gone, but Marcus Aurelius is 8 bucks at Barnes and Noble. Words from the Gunny to you. “What we do for ourselves dies with us, what we do for others and the world is immortal.” Keep the phones and the internet but know the importance of the existence of decency and respect. There are those that are convinced that E Pluribus Unum is a dead American fantasy, but out of many, one is a sure cure for loneliness.