It is written somewhere that for humans, just as with other animals, touch is the most important of all the five senses. With the skin, the largest organ in the body, filled with countless nerve endings, we are thus made able to “feel” in order to receive information from both the internal and external worlds inside and around us.
Ask any psychologist and they would affirm that touch, being the first of all the senses to develop (as early as eight weeks), is indispensable and crucial in the development and gestation of infants. This is with regard to their physical, emotional and social well-being. This particular sensory attribute, carries with it all our instinctive longings for social connection and reassurance. Along with the other four senses, “feel” in fact is hardwired deep in our DNA. As such, it is safe to say that the sense of touch is innate and visceral in us all.
While at present, some cultures particularly in the west have stricter taboos regarding the supposed intimacy associated with touch, several serious studies on the importance of the sense of touch exist, and many often lead to its being essential in the maintenance of one’s mental wellness. There are even discussions on skin “hunger”, particularly on prisoners in solitary confinement, who suffer forms of depression, as a result of being touch-deprived and away from any other form of interaction.
Veering away from this scientific ek-ek, and finally touching down on the present pandemic rules of social distancing, how is everyone coping in these times of touch-me-not?
The answer is perhaps made clear in the recent easing of quarantine rules, that has resulted in the sudden rush of people outdoors. Two months of self-isolation can do strange things indeed, as proven by this general response. This sudden reflex to let go despite repeated cautionary warnings by medical and local authorities, may be a natural act against our cabin fever. It is somehow like having a semblance of the normalcy that we miss. To be near people again, and at last, able to rub elbows finally.
In a week’s time, when the implications of this folly will have manifested, everyone will have to finally accept that that normalcy is lost forever.
At our house, in our family of three, at least we can still touch, hug and kiss. We remain our most immediate unit at the moment, and we cannot afford to reach out, or even dare to as yet beyond our other family members. For the rest of the community, we advise , touch me not and “keep distance” (as bumper signs always say), for the moment. Next month perhaps, because, as Dylan likes to say, tomorrow is a long time.
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