Touching has become such a boring activity in modern technological society. In terms of the hard things that we have to deal with such as furniture, implements and devices, everything is either made of synthetic materials or else smooth and polished natural materials. Modern designs mean that there is a minimal amount of ornament and decoration to create interesting tactile surfaces on these things. The aesthetics here tends to focus on the functional. Even though clothing has tended to move away from synthetic fibers like polyester, the organic fibers that we use like cotton, wool and linen tend to be finely woven and smooth. There are very few interesting textures in clothing anymore.
One of the few things that is left to touch that is of any sensory interest is another person’s body, which is a major reason for why sex has become such an obsession in modern technological society. And yet, for the most part, our sense of touch is in an experiential vacuum. It is as if we slide off the surfaces that surround us. It’s as if these surfaces are so protective of themselves, so ungiving, so incapable of bonding, so incapable of deep breathing. So incapable of generating the kind of organic friction that can really stimulate a person to life.
So incapable of providing experiential surfaces on which people can make, receive and preserve organic imprints. Touch in more traditional societies has always been a means by which people can create instant confirmation of their participation in life events and experiences. Instant confirmation of feeling fully alive by making imprints and preparing for death by preserving one’s imprints in such a way that one can create a surrogate immortality.
Touch is the sensory channel most predisposed to giving and receiving flowing blendable continual stimuli. These are the stimuli most predisposed to creating one’s sense of coherence to oneself as well as to one’s world of experience. As we attempt to commune with the experiential surfaces that surround us, instead we discover the experiential vacuum that these surfaces are creating. And as we experience this vacuum, we internalize it. And then we become a part of the experiential vacuum that surrounds us. We become more and more numb to our life force.
In connection with touch, we frequently speak of “getting our hands dirty”. One interpretation of this saying is that it refers to not just sitting on the sidelines and observing or even just dabbling in a project. Rather, one should fully engage oneself in an activity, even if it is difficult and messy. Perhaps a more literal way of interpreting the saying would mean to feel the grainy pebbly texture of the dirt in order to feel more alive. We must be able to tolerate the rougher organic friction created by such a texture. So many of the hard organic surfaces that we deal with today are not only smooth, but they are covered with shellac and varnish to protect and preserve them. Such surfaces may last longer, and the things with these surfaces may last longer, but it means being shut out from the tactile stimulation that we need.
To reiterate a theme brought up earlier in this article and also discussed in earlier articles in my column, a lack of organic stimulation from more natural and traditional living environments has led to people seeking out a variety of organic stimulation through multiple human bodies in sex. However, the problem is not only a lack of organic stimulation from the larger total macro living environment, which frequently we experience more visually , but also a lack from the micro living environments, which have to do with the things and substance in our immediate living environment, the things and substance we touch and hold. Such a lack of interesting organic things and substances again leads to a focus on the one kind of things and substance that is still readily available. And not just one body in a monogamous relationship, but multiple bodies creating different textures, different forms to touch and caress. Different sources of organic imprints both for making and receiving. And this, in turn, leads to difficulties in focusing on one person for a sustained intimate relationship.
Another kind of problem results when we take mind-altering drugs to heighten those tactile sensations that are available in today’s living environment. These drugs can have negative consequences both mentally and physically.
A real access to organic tactile stimulation is very important for healthy living. This is why tactile stimulation, the overlooked stimulation in modern technological society, is so crucial. It contributes significantly to helping to prevent us from sinking into a deadly numbness, becoming robots and thus losing our humanity. And it’s why it is such a dangerous sign that touch, in most areas of life today, has become so boring.
© 2019 Laurence Mesirow