Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times film critic, wrote a sad and beautiful piece about his loss of the ability to eat and drink (as well as talk).
Let me return to the original question: Isn't it sad to be unable eat or drink? Not as sad as you might imagine. I save an enormous amount of time. I have control of my weight. Everything agrees with me. And so on.
What I miss is the society. Lunch and dinner are the two occasions when we most easily meet with friends and family. They're the first way we experience places far from home. Where we sit to regard the passing parade. How we learn indirectly of other cultures. When we feel good together. Meals are when we get a lot of our talking done—probably most of our recreational talking. That's what I miss. Because I can't speak that's's another turn of the blade. I can sit at a table and vicariously enjoy the conversation, which is why I enjoy pals like my friend McHugh so much, because he rarely notices if anyone else isn't speaking. But to attend a "business dinner" is a species of torture. I'm no good at business anyway, but at least if I'm being bad at it at Joe's Stone Crab there are consolations.
The last paragraph of the article gets to the heart of the issue. Can technology help alleviate some of these losses that were previously unsurmountable? I follow Ebert on Twitter (@ebertchicago) and couldn't imagine why he was such a prolific Twitterer until I remembered that he can't speak. What a world Twitter opens up for those who previously and laboriously would have to have conversations by writing things out by hand! On Twitter, nobody knows you can't talk.
Where else can technology and social networking help overcome this sort of handicap, I wonder? Where can it fill a void that couldn't easily be filled in the past?