Thursday, 10 February 2011


“The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us.” - Bill Watterson

A very busy day at work today, with hardly any time to sit back and have a quiet moment! We are working on so many urgent and critical projects at once that it’s really quite amazing that we are managing to carry on as normal with the routine day-to-day activities also. The good thing today at least was that I managed to catch up with three old friends (sure enough one was on the phone, one was on Skype and one on Messenger) and even though the conversations were short, it felt good to say “hello, how are you, how are things?”. Nowadays of course we don’t have any excuse for not keeping in contact – as I said, phone, Skype and Messenger – but even though I enjoyed the brief chats, I still felt I missed the “real” flesh and blood people and the wonderful feeling one has when chatting face-to-face for a leisurely amount of time…

The word of the day today is “contact”:

contact noun |ˈkänˌtakt|
1) The state or condition of physical touching: The tennis ball is in contact with the court surface for as little as 5 milliseconds.
• The state or condition of communicating or meeting: Lewis and Clark came into contact with numerous river tribes | He had lost contact with his friends.
• [as adj. ] Activated by or operating through physical touch: Contact dermatitis.
• A connection for the passage of an electric current from one thing to another, or a part or device by which such a connection is made: A one-way electrical contact between a metal and a semiconductor.
• (contacts) Contact lenses.
2) A meeting, communication, or relationship with someone: They have forged contacts with key people in business.
• A person who may be communicated with for information or assistance, esp. with regard to one's job: Francie had good contacts.
• A person who has associated with a patient with a contagious disease (and so may carry the infection).
verb |ˈkänˌtakt; kənˈtakt| [ trans. ]
Communicate with (someone), typically in order to give or receive specific information.
contactable |ˈkänˌtaktəbəl; kənˈtak-| adjective
ORIGIN early 17th century: From Latin contactus, from contact- ‘touched, grasped, bordered on,’ from the verb contingere, from con- ‘together with’ + tangere ‘to touch.’

We so often speak of keeping “in contact” with people nowadays but actual physical touching or physical presence is not involved. We have contacts all over the world with whom we communicate electronically, but no actual “contact” is involved. We seem to be turning into people who physically touch others less and less, even though we may boast a huge number of “friends” and “contacts” in our electronic communication channels. Are we becoming a species of loners and solitary recluses, socialising only in virtual spaces? We seem to be thriving on multiple contacts with other hermits living a safe distance away from us?

In the train I often see people absolutely cringe during rush hour when there is the slightest chance that they may contact someone. The other day someone nearly toppled over as he stepped back to avoid being too close to another person. He was embarrassed, but at a safe distance, notwithstanding the near fall. I remembered the situation in India when I was there and the sardine-like proximity of people in trains and I almost burst out laughing there in the train, but I restrained myself, only because there were so many people crowding me!

Is this progressive, debilitating isolation and tendency to become loners that forces us sometimes to seek out crowded public events? Is the privation of contact that makes us seek out the crowds of football games, public events, protests, demonstrations, large parties? Do we need to periodically reassure ourselves of the gratifying presence of large numbers of our own kind close to us? Is this part of the reason why massage is such a popular therapy nowadays? Is it because it provides us with the sense of touch and contact that we miss in our daily solitary life? Is this what causes some people to perhaps thrive the close contact of peak hour trains?

Perhaps we are becoming too civilised for our own good. Contact but more specifically physical touch, is one of the most fundamental of our sensory perceptions and one that can trigger some of the most significant emotional responses. We may have iPhones and Skype, computers and messenger applications, Facebook and Twitter, but the fundamental and most satisfying way of communicating with other people remains the face-to-face meeting and the wonderful sense of touch.


  1. So true...babies thrive on physical touch, the lack of, in some archaic orphanages, does great harm.

    I love the 'touch' and feel of letters also and keep in 'contact' with blogging friends in distant places by exchanging 'Mail Art' with them in AU, FR, UK, and the USA. It adds greatly to the blogging experience!

  2. This has special significance for me, Nicholas, as I believe that the sense of touch is extremely precious and important to us as human beings. I too think that a face to face conversation is much much better than other forms of communication, especially when it is with a special person, can be accompanied by touch as appropriate