Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Touch Of Connection

Have you ever observed closely how people tend to greet each other?  Typically there is an awkward momentary hesitancy as each person tries to determine the proper gesture for each particular situation.  Sometimes it is just a nod of the head.  Oftentimes, for both genders, it is with the traditional outreach of the right hand – a centuries-old demonstration that says “I come in peace, and my right (sword) hand contains no hidden weapon intended to harm you.”  Or, increasingly, a hug is exchanged.  Many of those hugs – intended to show affection and make physical connection – are in fact entirely perfunctory, with little real human connection effected.  Often, primarily with men, the hug is accompanied by loud, forceful slaps on the back as if to reassure everyone that one’s manliness has not been lost.

The point of these observations is that they are examples of the awkwardness and hesitancy we feel when trying to connect ourselves to the vast world surrounding us.  The Universe, and Life in all its forms, is so vast, so all-encompassing, and so overwhelming vis-à-vis that little speck called “me.”  When proportions become that disproportional, we do what we always do: pull back.  We separate and distance ourselves from that which seems so unknowable.  We shrink away from the fearsome power of all these forces upon us.

Yet separation itself creates its own fear.  When we feel truly “alone” in this world, we also feel that we are completely on our own for our very survival.  Deep down we crave a sense of belonging, of connection, of being part of all that vastness, even as we may shy away from it in the moment.

Hence our need to touch.  To literally touch the world.  To place fingers, hand or body up against the forms of life that surround us.  Because when we touch, we can find reassurance from our fears.  And the sense of belonging once again within the overall Universe.

The feel of a summer breeze blowing through our hair cools us and awakens us.  Sitting in a calm, meandering stream relaxes us and cleanses us.  When the sun shines on our body we are warmed and feel secure.  The touch of a tree’s bark reminds us of how each thing in the Universe is given appropriate means of protection, and has the potential to live a long and productive life.  A gardener’s hands digging in the dirt yields a true sense of understanding of how nature works.

But it is in the touch of one human being with another that we become most connected.  A human being can be incredibly cruel to other human beings.  But in reaching out to take someone’s hand in yours, or the simple gesture of a hand on another’s shoulder when they are feeling tense or threatened, or giving the genuine wrap-around hug that says “everything is OK and you will be supported when you are hurting” – it is in these simple moments of touch that aloneness dissolves, that connection is made, that inner peace is achieved beyond what words alone can express or achieve.

Perhaps this is why so many people admire Native-American spirituality, which is rooted in respecting and connecting with all of Life’s forms.  It is a oneness that breaks down our usual sense of separation.  In our own spirituality, it is the almost-silent touch of God that reconnects us to our shared essence.  If all of creation is God’s creation, then we have been given the capability to touch that creation in some manner or another.  To understand and know things not by sitting on the sidelines as we too often do, observing (or ignoring) Life from a safe distance.  To know by direct experience.  To know the rain not by viewing it outside through the windows of our home, but to know it by standing in it as a child does, or at least extending a hand into it, and thereby making rain a shared, connecting experience.

To touch one another in a genuine spiritual embrace is to touch Life is to touch Creation is to touch the Universe is to touch God.

© 2013 by Randy Bell