Here's what I think. I think human touch is surely the most sublime sensation/activity ever invented by ecstatically drunken gods as they gently and ever so briefly encased us in these slippery filthy gorgeous mortal fleshforms.
I think human touch, done with calm intention and conscious ease, is a total life-affirming blessing of the most spiritually orgasmic kind, healing and restorative and achingly transcendent in quiet but thoroughly kaleidoscopic ways.
Furthermore, I think said touch is fundamental to basic survival in this tragicomic, dirt-bound realm and if we go too long without it we will die as without water or whisky or trees. Which is also why I fully believe its general paucity in modern life is perhaps the single most unfortunate side effect of the Facebook age.
I realize I might be unusual. I realize I might be odd to offer it up in this way. I deeply acknowledge, furthermore, that there are a thousand notable exceptions. But barring the relative handful of those who don't understand personal space, who perhaps "overtouch," whose intentions are a bit slimy or hostile, I would hereby like to be lightly and lovingly touched at some point by everyone I ever know, meet, connect with, always and forever, quite nearly without exception and that very much means you.
I feel like I'm on the right path with this. But you never know.
Here's the fascinating thing: The science on the subject has barely been, you know, touched upon. Research is only now coming to soft light that reveals, say, a gentle touch on the arm is not only sorta nice -- it can, in fact, change your entire body chemistry. Your viewpoint. Your world.
Such a touch can release tension. Relax muscles. Stop weeping. Start weeping. Evoke worlds. Invite transcendence. Calm rage. Soften the heart. Open the breath. Touch can alter temperaments and attitudes in an instant. Babies love it. So do romantics, dogs, deities and saints, gurus and wizened masters. An attentive touch carefully placed can pretty much calm everyone down.
Thus spake a recent, fascinating little study: "Library users who are touched while registering, rate the library and its personnel more favorably than the non-touched; diners are more satisfied and give larger tips when waiting staff touch them casually; people touched by a stranger are more willing to perform a mundane favor; and women touched by a man on the arm are more willing to share their phone number or agree to a dance."
So sayeth, elsewhere, one Dacher Keltner, psychologist from UC Berkeley and specialist in the study of touch: "The science is showing that when I receive a very friendly form of touch, it releases oxytocin, a neuropeptide that promotes trust. It shuts down stress-related parts of the brain like the amygdala and the locus coeruleus, it activates a branch of the nervous system we study called the vagus nerve, which is involved in connection. And by the way, the vagus nerve controls your immune system in part as well."
That's the budding science. In yoga philosophy, we might say it's all connected to sliding into proper alignment with your true essence, your core, the deeper self not made up of the ego's stories and cultural constructs and insidious mind games.
We might also say: This deeper, essential you is most certainly not touch averse, because that's impossible. After all, like craves like. Energy craves energy. Prana (life force) flows to prana and if you have no idea what I'm talking about just imagine your being is made of water and so is everyone else's and what happens when one water droplet contacts another? Right: An effortless, nearly instantaneous collapsing into a wondrous megadroplet of wow because holy hell, what else is there? Why else are we made of energy and electricity and sly consciousness if not to jack in to the collective interpersonal mainframe all the damn time? But maybe that's just me.
Perhaps you do not wish to hear it. Perhaps it makes you wince and roll your eyes. Perhaps you know far too many people for whom just about any kind of touch feels not just wrong, but slightly terrifying....
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He recently suggested that you please live in sin forevermore, that you also please help protect the conjugal sex fruit and that you seem to enjoy ">always walking in circles
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