Last night, in a dream of all things, I was reminded of a very real encounter that changed my perception for so much the better. I wrote about it then, almost 4 years ago, but I am moving my fingers across the keyboard now, re-posting it here to keep it fresh in memory.
Okay, so call it a bit cheesy to write like this, to express gratitude for access to the senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, all of it, all the things we ignore as minutiae that are taken for granted.
Days like today are different, however. I am beside myself, astounded by the power of the senses, having had my perception renewed + restored from having met someone who is without the most profound of these. She is self-described as “gifted with an exquisite challenge” to find other ways to experience the world + reminded me that, of all the senses, there really is only one.
My little boy + I were at a frame shop, with the intent of framing a gift we’d made. While looking, touching + talking (as 3-year-olds will do) about all the woods, canvases, textures + colors within, a woman’s voice suddenly said, “Your son has a beautiful voice + his laugh! You two have a most delightful bond” (complimenting my little boy like that is a sure way into my heart).
Her voice was magnificent, too, by the way, a deep, elegant timber only intention from thoughtful insight, wisdom from vast experience can shape.
We had a genuinely incredible conversation. She is an artist who experienced + lived through a horrible accident. Resulting brain trauma left her blind + without a sense of touch. Of any kind.
Our conversation meandered about the senses, their value + what comes of the absence of them. Especially touch. From a certain perspective, it is the only true sense, the building block all others depend on. It hadn’t ever occurred to me.
Light is touch as it graces the back of an eye, passing through the pupil, illuminating the retina, blanketing cones, sending messages along retinal nerves then to neurons firing across massive networks, passing from mechanical signals across gaps as electrical impulses to the brain, which in an instant become our perceptions.
Likewise, vibrations travel through the air, literally rubbing against it as it passes, entering, touching + waddling tiny bones inside ears against drums that tappity-tap-tap a cadence of life through sound.
Taste, as deconstructed by mastication, by the touch of lips + teeth, food travels via saliva across tongues, touching taste buds, triggering hints of salty, sweet, bitter + so much more – smells meticulously attached to memories in ways words are unable to transmit.
Here’s the thing: every message sent + received, from one to another, whether heard, felt, read or lip read, every subtle gesture, scent or sound, every nuance, every notion of flavor or word or song or motion or presence, in the end, every sensation is – powered by touch.