A Story of Senses: Touch


"Samson & Delilah" (Detail), Jose Etxenagusia Errazkin or, in Spanish, José Echenagusía Errazquin (1 February 1844 – 31 January 1912), Basque

Touch me, touch the palm of your hand to my body as I pass, Be not afraid of my body.

Walt Whitman


A human arrives awake to greet the Sun & the new dawn. Against the human's skin, there are lines. Some fabric has pressed itself into the flesh as a physical trace of journeying into other worlds. One may touch along the newly acquired texture, see its depths & mosaics, and wonder at the amusing thing that the human skin is. Against the human skin, the traces of the intangible make impressions. Just like the journeys into the nightly worlds through texture, sweat, redness, unexplained bruises leave impression upon it, so do other things intangible. Behind one's back may be an open window - and a tender breeze might make its way & touch the skin that's facing it. Who would see or take notice of the breeze otherwise? But the skin feels it & may respond. A writer may enjoy the breeze's touch so much that she may expose even more skin for it to touch. Even if it is a slightly cold, morning breeze. A braid of hair may join the touch & if the writer is to unplait the hair, it would be felt too & the breeze would have yet another instrument for his play. Sun too, makes his impression against the receptivity of the skin. When the winter ends, the skin, hungry & dried from the winter's winds & cold, rushes towards his rays. It has already forgotten how oppressive his heat may be & lays open to take the heat. The sun may sometimes burn her, sometimes leave redness, sometimes rashes, sometimes freckles, but their love persists & they meet again. The hair too, touched, turns lighter & if of cold undertones, reflects the gold into the world. With touch one can see - drawing a line with one's finger against another's eyebrows, against the jawline, nose, waistline, hips, has the eye of the heart get a more complete image. It sees that which the sensorial eye had missed. A hand in another's hair & it is only then that its texture, length, volume & thickness are truly perceived. Fingers find hidden structures & reliefs. With eyes closed & with the hands, one draws lines & sees without seeing. A blindman sees with touch, for the mind brings images from the memory far beyond & greater than his life. When a musician touches her beloved instrument, she doesn't look with eyes - they often are closed. Open, they may even be a distraction. They invite a projection & to project is to abandon the pure, perfect interiority. Embracing the lute, the musician feels the tightness of the strings under her fingers, and knows, as if being told, how strong or how tenderly the lute wants to be touched. The music that comes from improvisation is the conversation between the two.


In touch is an ancient vulnerability. Whoever touches, penetrates inside the subjectivity & the interior so dearly kept out of reach. A touch always provokes a response & leaves an impression. The one impressed has experienced an alteration, a change in a controlled way of being. The response and the impression are never the same even when familiar. To be altered is to disturb something within us that so dearly wants to hold to have something that immovable & constant. But the ocean does not cease to be the ocean because of her perfect openness & responsivity to the wind, to the sun or the moon. She takes pleasure in experiencing her own self in various modes. She refuses no sailor, no fisherman, & no swimmer. Her world is her own self. Her perfect & wide openness is also what makes one tremble in fear. It is not rare that one hears people say that the sight of an open ocean is one of the most fascinating & frightening sights to see. An approaching touch - with a finger, with a lip, with a foot, with a strand of hair is to awaken the ocean within, to move it in one way or another. And how frightened we are of our own oceans & how quickly, gazing at it we say to ourselves: "Oh I need no ocean, there at home, I have a bathtub!". And we rush towards our little bathtubs & then buy sea salt to put inside, so it may smell like the open, wide, sea; like the promise of possibility, of eternality, of endless choice. We dislike the loneliness of our smallness yet rarely desire the freedom of the ocean. And yet, as there is the ancient vulnerability in the touch, in it is also, a primordial validation. It is an affirmation that if as says: "I affirm, I see, I admit that you exist. The existence of you has fascinated mine & I want to close the distance between us. Give me a handful of hair, a fingertip of skin, so I may remember, so I may know something other than me, so I may recognise myself in something else than me, so that there is some external evidence of me, so that I may know that I am not alone, for this life is lonely & long, and what joy to know that there's another, just as lonely & alone as me."

To truly touch is to experience the wind, the sun, the sea, the music, the other human through the heart's eye & it is only the heart's eye that truly sees.

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