handshand on purplehand on orange
Touch, essence of life, from which all other senses spring, is a casualty of formality. Love’s darling, touch loses herself in her offspring, loses the bucket to the well of love’s air, waiting for breath, quietly talking as s’he waits to be breathed, quivering, alive.

We don’t touch each other enough. It gets lost in the shuffling dance of politeness and meaning. We don’t want to give the wrong impression, we don’t want to open ourselves to pain, or rejection. We fear germs. Too much intimacy weakens us. We prefer to keep things under control, with words and their polite walls.

Blogging takes touch away completely, starving already emaciated yearning even further. What I would give to touch the hand of some of the friends I have made here. Would it happen? Could it happen? Perhaps we can never meet, for that would give away all our secrets.

Touch is non-verbal. I’ve made a habit to hug all my friends whenever I part from them. Sometimes it feels awkward, since people aren’t accustomed to hugging much in this country. (Men in particular stick their butts out, so as not to touch crotches.) But I believe strongly in my hugging habit, my version of formal, ritual touch, since there is little other. I believe it can pass messages otherwise unspoken, or even un-thought. I believe it can heal.

technorati tags- , , ,

30 thoughts on “Touch

  1. I read somewhere once that a study was done that said that a person needs to be touched 16 times a day. They called it “skin hunger.” It said if you weren’t, you would unconsciously start bumping into people to get your touches in. I think about that . . . hungry skin.
    You’re so right that a touch can heal. A hug is a gift that can take away pain. But don’t think that you haven’t given one to me. You have more than once. I have the tears to prove it.

  2. This is a thought-provoking post, Garnet. For me, particularly the part about the limitations on friendships via the internet. You’re touching directly on some of my reservations about blogging.

    Wow, Liz, “skin hunger” – I didn’t know there was a term for it.

  3. Babies who are never held or cuddled can stop developing, lose weight, have long-lasting psychological problems when they grow up, become ill or even die from a “failure to thrive”. Humans have a need for human contact built in.

    The internet in some way makes possible close relationships that lack the element of physical contact. I don’t think this is a bad thing as long as people have those relationships in real life and are not depending on the internet for all their human interaction.

  4. Hungry skin…hmmm. In today’s society (especially U.S.) I can imagine that there is a lot of skin starving for attention. Not talking about the younger generations…they tend to sate there appetites regularly. It’s the rest of us who go hungry. I love the way the Europeans meet and greet with the two-cheek kiss. So wonderful. So welcoming. So “touching.”

    Great post…


  5. Dave,
    It is a sad commentary when we live in a society that fears the touch of others. To touch someone other than our loved ones or friends is so feared because of the repercussions that can be involved. At work we sign Sexual Harassment Policies by which we agree never to touch another co-worker since it could be an act misconstrued or unwanted. What you say about “blogging” makes an interesting point, however, like you I agree cyber-touching does make a poor substitute for the real thing.

  6. Scot- nice to see you. Sorry I’ve been so distant. Good point about harassment policies. What’s next? “Do not make eye contact!” I think the skin hunger which Liz mentioned is heightened via the internet. The desire for closeness becomes more poetic, more sweet in a way, precisely because it’s limited. As in Victorian culture, the yearning becomes its own beauty.

  7. Ned- I never knew that about baby development, but it makes perfect sense. And I like your take on internet relationships. There’s that balance thing again…I think my real life relationships have suffered from my internet obsessions. That’s what I’m in the process of balancing.

  8. Teri- I agree, the Europeans have some things figured out. I’ve spent some time in Europe, and I know they are not nearly as uptight about physical contact as we are here in the US. What I particularly like is that men are more comfortable with touching, even straight men.

  9. Great post, Garnet, and great comments – I’d also never heard the phrase skin-hunger. Powerful.

    This has started a whole, long train of thought, which I’m about to follow – have a feeling it might end up a post! Thanks for the openness.

  10. Theriomorph, wow, I read it, and it’s a wonderful post, rich and vivid. Liz sure does come up with some thought provoking ideas, doesn’t she?!

  11. There’s a theory that an autistic baby’s brain is not wired properly. When a normal baby is touched the synapses (sp?) in his brain fire away, building neurological pathways. Since the autistic brain doesn’t process touch, he becomes isolated and unable to develop language…

  12. Tammi- I never knew that. What a strange and tragic failure in the brain. And the poor child suffers unknowingly. Now that they know, I hope there’s something that can be done. Thank you for sharing that.


  13. Garnet, I myself believe in hugging everyone I meet and become friends with… It is in my nature, and a big part of my Brazilian culture…

    If I don’t hug all of my friends when I say hello and good-bye, somehow they feel empty and neglected if they don’t get one… lol…

    Touch is indeed the ultimate gesture of love and kindness…

    *Hugs* to you my friend…!

  14. Yemanja- So much needed communication is lost when touch is eliminated. Yay to hugs. I like to go completely silent, or just be filled with gratitude when I hug someone. I try at least. And now I’ll give you a hug invented by brilliant Shankari! ((())) I love it! Don’t you?

  15. Shankari, thank you for the kudos. You are brilliant my dear “holi” friend! Your spirit came pouring through in that little gesture. ((())) Let that be the sign of the hugs to spread throughout the blogosphere!

  16. The wonder of the written word, lies in it’s ability to touch hearts and minds, across time and space.

    -a gift that a select few, (like you and Liz) wield like Wizards.

  17. I’m on a mission to find quality writing on the web. What a wonderful gem to have stumbled upon. The falling sensation associated with “stumbling” would be best described as falling in to a large pool of respect and admiration. You have a wonderful command of the language coupled with a deep understanding of humanity.

  18. Garnet. Another wonderful post. A touch of the hand and a look in the eye. The two most powerful non-verbal experiences I’ve had. The lack of a touch and the eyes looking away, perhaps two of the most painful experiences of my life.

  19. Mike- have no fear, your flattering comment was rescued by comment fairys!! I have them well trained. Nice to meet you. I see you are a new blogger. I’ll be by soon to say hello at your place.

  20. AAAAH. The hug. I could write for days about the hug. I, too, am a big fan of the hug at its best — warm, spontaneous, silent. In fact, I often hug strangers (after asking them, of course, if it’s ok), which sounds weird but always ends up an incredibly positive experience. People love it. The last time I did this the victim was a celibate transient scientist/philosopher (truly) in my city who calls himself a “rock sculptor”. He had just finished teaching me a lesson in physics, balancing huge misshapen boulders atop each other using phrases that turned his science lesson into poetry, like “falling in eternal downness”. I hugged him, after, and brought him coffee. He inspired a poem that’s still living in my head but that will undoubtedly spring forth fully formed (like Athena) soon enough, probably thanks to your reminder about the important messages that can be sent through simple, pure, touch.

  21. Terrific post. Hands were one of the fist subjects I drew besides trees, perhaps as a child and later as a teen, reaching….
    I,too, hug my friends both as greeting and for departure. They used to tease me that they had begun to adopt my ethnicity,which is a touchy-feely one for both genders, because they found themselves also hugging their friends.

    (I knew about the vital need for human touch in Ned’s post and the autistic one from before professional experience. One of the greatest gifts one can do, is to hug, cuddle, and touch newborns in a hospital, who’ve been abandoned by their parents.)

  22. Pingback: Holistic Healing

Comments are closed.