Who is Howard Bloom? And what does he have to do with the COVID pandemic?
It’s hard to know where to start -- Howard is a world renowned scientist, a highly regarded intellectual, an author and lecturer on wide ranging subject matter, a frank philosopher….and swears like a broken down truck driver.
Howard’s #1 principle of science - and seemingly his life - is “the truth at any price including the price of your life”. Howard has written or lectured on quantum physics, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, economics, and aerospace among other scientific disciplines. Howard has been described as "next in a lineage of seminal thinkers that includes Newton, Darwin, Einstein”.
Yet science-minded Howard made a huge cultural impact managing public relations for some of the world’s biggest rock stars like Michael Jackson, Prince, Bob Marley, Bette Midler, Billy Joel, and on and on the list goes. Howard’s success was unparalleled and his future was wide open to possibilities….until his body failed his mind. Like mortals, Howard got sick with the flu, but instead of getting better in a few days, and unlike most others, he got worse. Much worse. Howard would spend the next 15 years practically bed bound, and 5 of those years he was so weak he couldn’t speak, and so sick he couldn’t have people in the same room.
Howard would eventually figure out he had ME/cfs, known scientifically as myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME -- and informally known as ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, or CFS. ME/cfs is a complex disease that causes chronic immune and neurological dysfunction. Like millions of other people who never recovered from the flu or a viral or bacterial infection, and developed ME/cfs, Howard’s life - and his hope and dreams - would never be the same.
It is well known in the medical community that some people never recover from viral infections. Many of the 2003 SARS pandemic victims did not fully recover because they developed ME/cfs, and it is beginning to appear that many of the COVID pandemic victims will also develop chronic immune and neurological problems like ME/cfs patients. The world may be facing millions more people who never recover from COVID and develop ME/cfs like Howard.
In this interview, Howard shares his remarkable life, with all its highest of highs, and lowest of lows -- and tales of some of the famous people who intersected his journey through the world of rock and roll, and notable thinkers also immersed in the messy business of scientific discovery.
Perhaps as unusual as his life, Howard has made a very rare and full recovery from ME/cfs by maintaining a regimen of drugs to keep his body and mind working hard -- and to find the truth at any cost.
Here is part 1 of my interview with the engrossing and sublime scientist Howard Bloom, author of the newly released book “Einstein, Michael Jackson and me”....
Howard Bloom says childhood was a nightmare - he grew up in Buffalo, New York, and that's a nightmare - a very pretty city, wonderful Victorian architecture with big and front lawns - but his family didn't get to that status until he was 9 years old - Howard says that for someone born with a disability of being intellectual and probably bring on the autism spectrum
a term that didn't exist in those days, it was a very lonely place - Howard was born in 1943, the year of the Holocaust - his father has started a small liquor store in an attempt to make a living, he was 33 years old and was drafted and sent to California - so Howard grew up without a father - his mother had to immediately take over the liquor store and abandon her maternal role
Howard felt like he grew up without a mother as well - his mother was incredible competent, but not good at intimate relationships - so she hired a cleaning woman, not a baby sitter - to keep him out of the way, the cleaning women would lock him in a small corridor
That was how Howard spent the first 3 years of his life - once his Dad came back, Howard was ecstatic, for the first time in his life he's have a family - his parents then told him that he would be having a baby brother
Although Howard's brother was 2nd born, he was treated as the 1st child - so they parented his brother, but Howard was left in the cold - his mother was afraid of polio so she rarely let Howard out to play with other kids, but when she did, the other kids loathed Howard - when there was somebody to beat up, or chase, or humiliate, Howard was the kid
The neighbourhood kids excluded and marginalized Howard - but growing up isolated for the 1st ten years turned out to be a blessing for his future
Howard remebers in 1st grade that the 1st kid done their work would get a gold star - Howard was always last - his teacher called Howard's mother in and said 'I think your son is mentally retarded' and should be taken for psychological testing, and his mother did that but never told him the test results - one day Howard came in 2nd last, not last, and his teacher was so pleased, she gave him a gold star - so Howard was late to learn how to read and write
The house Howard was born in was very small, but his father did well from the liquor store they bought a new house, next door to a Frank Lloyd Wright designed house, with a huge backyard
It was an isolated neighbourhood, so Howard felt just as isolated as before - but their neighbour were a man and woman who were radiologists with advanced degrees - one day the woman said, 'my kids are away at summer camp, come to my reading room and see my books' - she had all 38 Oz books, and Howard read them all that summer - this was his introduction to a virtual world of reading
By 4th grade Howard was reading 2 books a day, one under his desk, so he was not paying attention to the teacher at all
Howard's father worked long hours, while his mother worked at becoming influential in Jewish society and education so she would hang out with college educated people, who she resented because she didn't get to go to college, so there was no time for Howard - whereas his parents dotted, hovered and did all the things you'd expect a parent to do
When Howard was in the Boy Scouts he tried very hard to win medals by completing tasks and then getting a parent to sign a piece of paper, but Howard could not get his parents to sign - when Howard's brother started Boy Scout's their mother became a Den Mother
This has worked to Howard's advantage - Howard can not look at things in the normal way, and he doesn't want to - when he was about 10 years old he found another book
He'd never seen it before, and would never see it again - the first 2 things it said were: the truth at any price, including the price of your life - and look at things as if you've never seen them before - to prove point #1, it told the story of Gallileo, but they told it all wrong - it said Gallileo would stick to his truth even if burnt at the stake - Howard says that is wrong - Gallileo told the Pope he'd retract everything he'd ever written
In exchange for house arrest - but the book did not tell it that way, but Howard needed a hero at that point -- the 2nd point was about Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, 1 of the 2 men who invented the microscope - it described Leeuwenhoek looking at swamp water and seeing 'animalcules' and writing to the Royal Society
Look for things that are invisible to you and all those around you and bring them into the light -- those 2 rules grabbed Howard, it was his religion, and he's dedicated his life to it - but not conventional science - he's a professional outsider, to see things others don't, to ask questions that would not occur to others - that's his fucking job
Howard read Jack Kerouac's On The Road, and reading about the Beatniks in Time Magazine - Howard and his best friend would Time cover to cover and they tied in the magazines current events competition every year
Every issue there was a story obout the Beatniks - Howard thought that if he could get close to the Beatniks, he would be accepted - the his father made a hideous mistake: for summer vacation he took them on a road trip to Cape Cod and Provincetown - Howard walked into the gallery in P-town and there were a bunch of Beatniks from the West Village (New York)
They grabbed onto Howard and treated him like another adult - so he spent the week with them and bought a pair sandals - when he got back to Buffalo, his French teacher was so scared of him and his sandals, she put him in a walk in closet - Howard started reading about Zen and wanted to drop out of high school, getting a motorcycle and go to California - but his parents threatened to send him to lumberjack camp
The last thing Howard wanted was to be around a bunch of macho men - Howard got in to Reed College, same as Steve Jobs, but Howard dropped out 6 weeks before the end of the year - as he was hitchhiking and riding the rails, a group of people gathered around Howard - Time and other magazines gave that movement a name, the Hippie Movement, so Howard, with others, accidentally started the Hippie Movement
Howard went to Israel for a year to live on a Kibbutz - his father thought it would make a man out of him - Howard went back to NY University - but when Howard was 10 years old, his mother took him to meet the head of Buffalo University graduate physics department and were in his office for an hour - as they were leaving, the proffessor put his hand on Howard's shoulder and told his mother that she didn't have to save to pay for college, Howard would get a scholarship to any college he wanted in theoretical physics
They had been interpreting the effect of the doppler shift and its implactions for Big Bang, the hot topic in physics at the time - indeed, Howard had 4 fellowships when he finished NYU, but in a field that had not been named yet, neuroscience - he got Columbia U to allow him to take any medical courses he wanted so he could piece together his own education program - but at 12 years old Howard realized what fascinated him was mass human passion, he called it 'the gods inside of us'
Howard realized that if he went to Grad school, it would be Aushwitz for the mind - so he dropped out, and went into something he knew little about: popular culture -- Howard pivoted because the Poet in Residence told Howard...
...last year I asked you to be on the editorial board of the school literary magazine and you didn't even show up, this year I'm telling you that you are the Editor - Howard was distressed, he hated literary magazines, the typeface was terrible, colors awful - you could stop an orgy by throwong a literary magazine in it
A friend asked him: if you could do anything with this magazine, what would it be? Howard said it would be a picture book - so he gathered a team of visual artists and poets to create an issue Washington Square Review in a 12 x 12 inch format with full color printing
Howard was called into a meeting about the cost of the magazine and they said we're doubling your budget for the next issue - the 2nd issue was the Sex and Death issue, but half the staff quit - when it was published, Howard got calls from Look Magazine and others including Boy's LIfe...
...the Boy Scout magazine - Howard had been kicked out of the Boy Scout's for incompetence in Morse Code when he was 11 -- Howard spent 2 weeks in a mental institution because the day after he attended his only rock and roll concert, he had tried to kill himself
For 4 years, school had given Howard structure and purpose - his 1st semester he got 4 As and 1 B, and he was humiliated to get a B -- in his 2nd semester he also got 4 As and 1 B
Howard created learning techniques, and he got straight As every semester after that - but when he school ended he had no purpose, no goal - Howard thinks he was depressed since he was 5 years old - every second of every day was a living hell, a torture and work was his escape - he learned to be a workaholic when he was 14 years old - when school ended, he fell into his deep depression
He knew what he'd be doing in September, but had no structure for the summer - he sat staring at a big bottle of valium and that was as far as he got in his suicide attempt
Howard's wife called Howard's uncle, a doctor, and they had Howard committed to a mental institution - when he got out, he went to visit one of his artists, but found him, his wife and their son in an empty apartment, crying - they were broke and about to be evicted
Howard told him he was a great artist and that if Howard showed his artwork they could both make money - after 2 weeks of trying to see art, he'd accomplished nothing
Howards' wife's 1st husband was a student too - she let Howard know she was sick and tired of students as husbands and Howard would lose her if he continued
Howard did not want to lose his wife - remember, Howard started out at 10 interested in astrophysics and microbiology - at 12 he built his first Boolean Algebra machine - at 16 he worked at the world's largest cancer research facility
Howard developed a theory about the beginning and end of the universe that he later discarded, but it did predict something that came true 38 years later: dark energy - but at 12-13 years old Howard discovered one of his real passions was for 'the gods inside us' - to find the ecstactic experience and how it relates to history
Howard felt like psychologist William James's 1902 book, The Varities of Religious Experience', was written for him - a calling to continue James's work
Howard was in pursuit of the ecstatic experience - that was never going to happen at Grad School
So in September, instead of returning to school, he immersed himself in something he knew nothing about: popular culture - it was an opportunity to go 'into the field' and it was an obligation of Howard's as a science person
Science is dedicating yourself to exploring - particpant/observor science, like Margaret Meade immersing herself in another culture
Fast forward in Howard's life, and he starts a PR (Public Relations) firm for rock and roll and popular music - he built into the largest PR firm approaching it from a science stance he learned growing up - Howard reinvented music PR
Howard took a 'truth drives out lies' approach to PR, in align with science seeking truth - Howard worked with a lot of talent and turned them into superstars
Howard says that if you find someone who can have a positive influence on humanity, you must dedicate yourself to that - when Howard was 14 yrs old, he promised his parents he would work hard if he could go to a private school - that's where he learned to work 7 days a week
Constant work was the salvation for his clinical depression - it did not cure, but buffered the pain a little bit - Howard says thanks to CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) he no longer has depression
Howard had heard that fighter pilots are sent into battle for 2 weeks, then get 6 weeks of rest and relaxation because their 'alarm system' is on super high when they are fighting, and if you leave the alarm system on too long, they will burnout - Howard alarm system had been on 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year - he does not like rest or relaxation, it is depressing - Howard worked for 8 years without a vacation, but arranged a 2 week vacation in Los Angeles
In his 30s, Howard knew his body would refuse to work unrelentlessly hard - he didn't know what form that would take, but knew it would prevent him from working so prepared to live with that - Howard and his wife lived like church mice, but took all their money and invested it in real estate
So the property would earn a living if Howard was too weak to work - but on March 10, 1988, Howard flew to a meeting with new clients, to meet them in their own environment
In spite of anticipating his body was going to break down, Howard did not let up on his workaholic ways - his 1st prinicple is the truth at any price, including the price of your life - so Howard flew to this meeting and was met at the airport and taken to Linda and Cecil's home
Their home was new, built like an aircraft carrier, it was unfinished, on top of a hill, surrounded by sheep - because it was March 10th, it was cold and there was no heating or furniture, so they sat on the floor for the next 5-6 hours - then got back into the jeep and 5 hours drive back to the airport - something uncharacteristic happend when he left the plane: he forgot his laptop - the next day it was obvious he was coming down a cold, so he did what he always did: work hard, walk 2.5 miles, carry on -- he was a bit sicker the next day (Sunday), but did his 2.5 miles walk
Howard can't even remember being at work on Monday - about noon on Tuesday he told his colleagues they had to get him out of the office immediately because soon he'd be too weak to walk upstairs - his staff literally dragged him to the car to take him home - he doesn't know how he made it upstairs to his 4th floor apartment because he was so weak - Howard was too sick to leave his bedroom for 3 months
Howard felt like his circuit boards had been pulled out - until all he could was stare at the ceiling - but he was blissfully content because he didn't have the energy to be depressed, or the energy to be unfulfilled or driven - Howard's wife got their daughter's friend to care give and Howard spent 3 months watching movies - often too weak to think and too weak to speak ---- PART 2 COMING NEXT WEEK ------
Connect with Howard Bloom: howardbloom.net
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Counsellor + Patient Advocate + (former) Triathlete
I am a counsellor, patient advocate, and - before I became sick and disabled - a passionate triathlete. Work hard. Train hard. Rest hard.
I have been living with HIV since 1998. I was the first person living with HIV to compete at the triathlon world championships.
Thanks to research and access to medications, HIV is not a problem in my life.
I have been living with ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) since 2012, and thanks in part to medical error, it is a big problem in my life.
Counseling / Research
I first became aware of the ubiquitousness of medical error during a decade of community based research working with the HIV Prevention Lab at Ryerson University, where I co-authored two research papers on a counseling intervention for people living with HIV, here and here.
Patient participants would often report varying degrees of medical neglect, error and harms as part of their counseling sessions.
I am co-founder of the ME patient advocacy non-profit Millions Missing Canada, and on the Executive Committee of the Interdisciplinary Canadian Collaborative Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Research Network.
I am also a patient advisor for Health Quality Ontario’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, and member of Patients for Patient Safety Canada.
Medical Error Interviews podcast and vidcast emerged to give voice to victims, witnesses and participants in this hidden epidemic so we can create change toward a safer health care system.
My golden retriever Gladys is a constant source of love and joy. I hope to be well enough again one day to race triathlons again. Or even shovel the snow off the sidewalk.