Sunday, May 29, 2016


There was a recent article by a writer I admire and look out for, Adam Gopnik, in the May 16 New Yorker.  "Feel Me" is somewhat provocatively titled and this by a writer who knows exactly what he is doing. Yes, the phrase is often used in connection with sexual activity, an activity deeply connected to our lives, self-images, nervous systems, drives, even to the fact of our own existence born from touching and feeling.  If you were born before 1950 or so, you are old enough to have felt sexual feelings many times and you may be able to broaden the focus, just for a while, to the great area of all touch.  

We usually say we have the five senses of vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch.  We have expert doctors in the area of vision and highly educated specialists in hearing.  We hear that dogs and other mammals are far more sensitive to scents than we are.  I have read that dogs are umpety-ump times better than we can hope to be at sensing and interpreting scents. But I guess the human sense of touch is quite far advanced.  I don't just mean the use of the fingertips, I mean all sensations of touch from anywhere on our skin.  

Gopnik's article is about all feelings and sensory input from the skin, which is our largest organ.  If you are sitting right now, you are getting messages from parts of your skin.  If you are wearing clothes, you can feel them.  When I look up "touch" or "human touch", many on the first page of the 38 million hits have to do with being touched by the hand of a friend or lover or professional.  Of course, skin's ability to talk to us and affect us is continuous and far more than just relationships and affection.  

Lynn just showed me a Facebook video of the work of photographer Richard Renaldi. His work on "Touching Strangers" is much like an old idea I had about people who have grown so accustomed to each other that they no longer see the other's beauty and intelligence.  I wanted to have a business where over-accustomed pairs sign a contract to be kidnapped and jailed where they could be starved for each other and maybe experience a dramatic and romantic escape from captivity to be so grateful for each other all over again. Renaldi found a much faster, more economical and effective way to brighten people's senses and awareness: put two willing strangers off the street into a semi-embrace or hug or other more or less affectionate stance for his camera.  The write-up for his book "Touching Strangers" says he asks strangers to "physically interact".

I wrestled for five years in high school and college.  Wrestlers are very aware of physical interaction and they wouldn't think of putting their arms around each other and standing still for a photo as physical interaction.  But in general, we do think that way.  Touching another even a little can be a big deal.  Ask the parents who drive 500 miles with two children in the back seat.  

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