Letter from Clemson, South Carolina

Sterling Eisiminger

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Having learned from the studies of stressed humans in isolation, NASA has built cupolas into the International Space Station. When tensions mount, astronauts are advised to seek refuge in these snug, windowed spaces and observe the Earth, where everything they love is housed and where, eventually, they will return. A month into our quarantine, perhaps we all need a cupola to crawl into with a security blanket and glass of wine.”Skip Eisiminger

Skip the B.S.

By Dr. Skip Eisiminger

The all but deserted campus of Clemson University. (Photo: E. B-Hering.)

The all but deserted campus of Clemson University. (Photo: E. B-Herring.)

Sterling (Skip) Eisiminger

CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—May 2020—Social contact is as vital a human requirement as fresh air, water, and food. Strike your thumb with a hammer, and the pain registers in the same part of the brain as isolation. Fast for a couple of days, and your hunger registers in the same place as the pain of isolation. Share some milk-, not bitter-, chocolate with a friend, and the gustatory pleasure becomes more enjoyable. Stick your hand in a bucket of ice water, and the tactile pain increases if a friend is sharing the water. Watch a live demonstration, and you’ll remember more of it than if you watch a taped demonstration. Watch a live video conference, and your brain will be more active than when watching a taped conference. Raise your children in mountains above 10,000 feet or on a small island, and their IQs will suffer. Science tells us that the lonely run the same mortality risk as if they had smoked 15 cigarettes a day, drunk six glasses of wine a day, were obese, or inactive. On average, they die 7.5 years earlier than their sociable peers.

During the COVID-19 quarantine and the suspension of classes at Clemson University, I frequently take solo bike rides through the deserted campus for exercise. Rarely do I take a ride when I don’t see at least one group larger than the recommended three huddled on a blanket, waiting for a bus, or just loitering in front of a closed bar. Sometimes I yell, “Please observe the proper social distance,” and the usual reply is a blank stare, though one young woman flipped me off.

Having learned from the studies of stressed humans in isolation, NASA has built cupolas into the International Space Station. When tensions mount, astronauts are advised to seek refuge in these snug, windowed spaces and observe the Earth, where everything they love is housed and where, eventually, they will return. A month into our quarantine, perhaps we all need a cupola to crawl into with a security blanket and glass of wine.

Humans are and have been social creatures from the start, and no communicable disease that ravages the lungs and often the brain will change that. Socializing within touching distance is in our DNA. Consider the troops of baboons, the whoops of chimpanzees, and the barrels of monkeys to which we are related. Deny us that, and, as my snow-bound uncle once said, “If I don’t get back to normal soon, I’ll be crazy as a shit-house rat.”

Be well,

Skip Eisiminger

To order copies of Skip Eisiminger’s Letters to the Grandchildren (Clemson University Digital Press), click on the book cover below or contact: Center for Electronic and Digital Publishing, Strode Tower, Box 340522, Clemson SC 29634-0522. For Wordspinner: Mind-Boggling Games for Word Lovers, click on the book cover.

Skip Eisiminger's Letters to the Grandchildren

Wordspinner: Mind-Boggling Games for Word Lovers

Sterling Eisiminger

About Sterling Eisiminger

Dr. Sterling (“Skip”) Eisiminger was born in Washington DC in 1941. The son of an Army officer, he traveled widely but often reluctantly with his family in the United States and Europe. After finishing a master’s degree at Auburn and taking a job at Clemson University in 1968, he promised himself that he would put down some deep roots. These roots now reach back through fifty years of Carolina clay. In 1974, Eisiminger received a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina, where poet James Dickey “guided” his creative dissertation. His publications include Non-Prescription Medicine (poems), The Pleasures of Language: From Acropox to Word Clay (essays), Omi and the Christmas Candles (a children’s book), and Wordspinner (word games). He is married to the former Ingrid (“Omi”) Barmwater, a native of Germany, and is the proud father of a son, Shane, a daughter, Anja, and grandfather to four grandchildren, Edgar, Sterling, Spencer, and Lena.
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