This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
I’m a big fan of communication. One of the reasons I write.
This afternoon I’ve taken pictures of medical documents, downloaded them to my laptop and attached to an application for a blue badge to my local council. I’ve also just discovered how to play music from my phone through the TV via Bluetooth. My laptop, mobile and TV are now all connected. In the car someone calls, I press a button on the steering wheel and there they are. In the bedroom I ask Google to play whatever takes my fancy – and it happens.
Talking and sharing the pain/pleasure we share in life is core to how we operate as humans. But here’s a contradiction in terms. There’s also something to be said for silence.
As a DJ I spent decades in an environment full of loud music which means in retirement I crave peace. A favourite book in a comfy chair is where I like to be after a lifetime being a creator of cacophony. But don’t get me wrong. This does not mean I’m finished rocking the boat. Oh no. My 1.8 kilowatt sound system remains under the stairs waiting for the left hip operation I need to be able to walk properly again.
In the meantime, I’m looking for instances of positivity in a world consumed by the opposite and sometimes it comes from the most unusual places. On my TV I’ve programmed in a UK radio station called Sunshine Radio Online – it does what is says on the tin.
Listening this morning to Terry Hughes doing their retro chart, he played What a Wonderful World from Marie Osmond’s new CD Unexpected. It will never replace the original by Louis Armstrong – but I was impressed and checked her out. You won’t hear this on your local Greatest Hits Radio as they don’t allow their DJ’s to choose the songs. Almost 50 years after Paper Roses, she and the Osmond family are still faithful Mormons. On her web page she does a Sunday message and on the one I read she rabbited on – about rabbits.
As a choir member I’ve sat through hundreds of sermons so I’m a bit of an expert and, being the cynical Brit I am, had a bucket close by. So that you don’t reach for yours I’ll distilled this to its essence – because it’s interesting.
“In the 1970’s, researchers set up an experiment to determine the effects of diet on heart health. They used a controlled group of rabbits and fed them a high fat diet and kept track of their blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol. All of the rabbits had a build up on the inside of their arteries, but one group surprised them by having 60% per cent less build up than the others.
Everything in their diet was the same, so they were confused as to why. The only thing they had not checked was the research staff. They found that every rabbit with fewer fatty deposits was being fed by one researcher. Although she fed them the same food, “she talked to them, cuddled and petted them… She couldn’t help it, it’s just how she was.”
She did more than feed the rabbits food, she fed them with love (scrabbles for bucket).
Since it was so difficult for the research team to believe the rabbits we’re healthier because of kindness, they repeated the experiment. The same thing happened. The loving researcher produced higher health outcomes in the rabbits she fed while being kind.
Years later, scientists still refer to this experiment. A book was written called The Rabbit Effect with this conclusion: “Take a rabbit with an unhealthy lifestyle. Talk to it. Hold it. Give it affection. That relationship makes a difference.”
The book is by Columbia University doctor Kelli Harding and is patently tosh which would not stand up to UK medical scrutiny. However, Marie’s final paragraph made me think.
“Ultimately, what affects our health has as much to do with how we treat and live with one another, and how we think about what it means to be human”.
Anyone who has owned a pet knows the positive effect it has on them. Even a goldfish knows you give a damn when you rescue it in a plastic bag from the funfair.
We know land animals have feelings but there is disquieting research to suggest an octopus is intelligent and has feelings and emotions, as have lobsters and a host of other sea creatures we kill and eat on a regular basis.
My thinking is we need to make an extra effort to be kinder to everyone and everything around us. Not just now but always. We hear the announcements in some supermarkets asking us to be kind to their staff. We watch nature documentaries telling us our lifestyle is killing the planet. We feel shame as our non-recyclable goods go to landfill and we switch the central heating on.
Boaty Mcboatface is one of the submersibles currently being deployed in the Antarctic in 2022 by the RSS ship Sir David Attenborough. The scientists are trying to establish the extent of the damage caused by global warming. In the silence of the deep ocean it’s not going to be good news.
For the James Webb Space Telescope it’s much better as this $10 billion project 30 years in the making has successfully deployed after launching on Christmas day.
JWST senior project scientist and Nobel Prize winner John Mather: “We think there should be stars, galaxies, black holes maybe beginning at 100 million years after the Big Bang. It’s astounding we might still be able to witness such a thing. That’s the consequence of light having a finite speed in a vast and expanding cosmos”.
So we’re going deeper and higher and further. But are we being more loving and kinder?
I’ll leave that to you, Marie Osmond and her rabbits.
Personally I’ll opt for silence – and perhaps a hug.
Lots more to read from Northern Male here