Commentary on Touch

Thursday, 18. June 2009

Refers to this thread

The sections of “Touch” that I am now posting were all written in a state of ecstasy over 20 years ago in a six month period when I was living on handouts in a hovel and dreaming of a new approach to philosophy, as you probably have before giving up on it, as I did.

Amazingly, I began an entire set of six books and recently I discovered some of this material and it blew me away. I don’t know what will come of it but just like this from Dylan the stuff you discard too fast can be the best that you ever did…

I intend to post sections of this and other “books” of mine online and for each there will be a place to comment.

So please comment here on Touch 1 and other sections…

30 Responses to “Commentary on Touch”

  1. Vincent Says:

    It’s powerful stuff, Steve: universal, clear, cutting-edge, ready to counter unquestioned assumptions with controversial challenges.

    I wait eagerly to see if the promise of this beginning will be sustained.

  2. Steven Holmes Says:

    Thanks, Vincent. I wrote all that long before I even thought of starting the CV writing business. I should have stuck with it but I thought I was crap. When I opened it up last week it simply blew me away and I thought: wow! Was I channeling Gaston Bachelard for a few weeks…

  3. Cora Says:

    Some thoughts
    Touch seen as a gesture that crosses a border, or even, oversteps a limit…a limit between yourself and the other… Fascinating. Is touching another person an expression of your own physical needs or is it to emphasize an emotion that you feel, in your psyche …

    While when I touch myself, it seems as if both ends meet: there’s a need in me to feel…for instance I’m rubbing my forehead…and at the moment I’m fulfilling this need, the same me receives and feels the touch – as if there’s no danger ever in touching yourself.

    So how is it to be touched, to be the receiver…Does it mean the receiver is more vulnerable…

  4. Steven Holmes Says:

    Absolutely, Cora. I cannot think of any richer place to mine profound metaphors about human experience than the domain of touch. It’s an infinite subject area which generates so many questions and asking questions is actually what allows us to discover, whereas answers do not.

    Question number one is clearly: where do I end and the rest of it begins? This must be a question with no definitive answer and yet merely to ask it enriches our awareness, which is perfect.

  5. Vincent Says:

    It’s a profound topic which affects our life at both ends. The baby learns through all senses especially physical touch, discovering its own identity and boundaries. When it first leaves the womb it doesn’t know the distinction of “me” and “not-me”.

    Then, in the end-game of life, when our influence on the world is diminished and in many cases our survival-struggles too, we return to this question and perhaps modify our answer. It’s no longer so important to distinguish “me” and “not-me”; and we may have the feeling of returning consciously to the All that we never really left; not needing to do things because we are already a part of things.

  6. Cora Says:

    A penetrating viewpoint, Vincent, connecting the start of our life with the ending of it. In between those two limits, we must have learned something, don’t you think, to add it to our original ‘me’…
    This something may be described as our goal, or outlook on life.
    Without such a task, life would be meaningless…, which can be a viewpoint too of course…

  7. Vincent Says:

    Well, I think that the meaning of life is constantly constructed. Its foundation is survival of course, and then there are the instincts. Beyond that, we have this overgrown brain-appendage, which may get utilised in constructing metaphysics, but I think that’s optional.

  8. Steven Holmes Says:

    And yet we no longer exist without including our minds, whose main function after survival and reproduction is to search for meaning.

  9. AnnG Says:

    This idea about the boundaries fascinates me.

    Years ago when experimenting with LSD,I felt the boundaries between me and the other people sharing the experience dissolve and I was sure we were wandering in and out of each others consciousness, but it was very much an emotional and non verbal experience, almost out of time.

    Later, looking back, Ryan and I talked about it and we had the idea that we had experienced life very much as baby would do.

    But somehow the physical touch thing is important in establishing a connection with “the other” – or maybe it just seems really important to someone who is as much in the head as I am.

  10. Steven Holmes Says:

    “In the head” is a hugely fertile concept. We might liberate ourselves if we explored that.

    Your LSD experiences, Ann, would be worth a thread on their own. I once engaged in a hypnotic guided fantasy that really really had me swimming inside a strawberry without any drugs….

    What we might feel, if only we could stop controlling it all !

  11. Cora Says:

    “What we might feel, if only we could stop controlling it all”

    Or…what we might feel if we could stop translating our experiences into words…But then, how will we be able to understand what it is that we’re feeling. Is it conceivable that we can have experiences without words –
    experiences that somehow make sense in the story of our life, so that we can learn from them and thus improve our journey…

  12. Vincent Says:

    I wrote some critical comments on Touch2. Have you erased them?

  13. Steven Holmes Says:

    No, where are they? I’ve looked through everything and I can’t find them and have never read them so maybe you didn’t press the button or there was a fault. It’s always best to write your comments in MS Word and then paste them and save it. This also avoids spellos for those who can’t spell, which is nobody here!!!

  14. Vincent Says:

    I have a copy, because the RSS feed acknowledged publication of the comment, and so I can paste in what was published. It was headed “Comment on Touch 2 by Vincent” with text as follows:

    “I imagine this is a continuation of the other piece which you wrote several years ago and are now positively impressed by, on reading it again now.

    “I think it needs a great deal of editing before it can speak effectively to the reader. By editing I mean rewriting, for this is too divergent. You make a general statement that needs to be expanded and explained so that it can be properly shared with the reader; but you omit the expansion, explanation, imagery, examples, explanation and go on to some other general statement.

    “As a reader, I feel like a little child being pulled along by a parent in a shopping centre. I want to stop and look at things: “What’s this? I want one of those!” but the parent tugs at my hand and my enthusiasm wanes, as I realise that my parent has a different agenda: not to please me, share with me, but pursue his own stuff, with me as a mere witness and not a participator.”

  15. Steven Holmes Says:

    It’s just what it is, Vincent. It comes in that garb. I would say exactly the same thing to any writer I admire: Kant, Lawrence, Eliot, whoever – that if only they would “speak to the reader” in some other way it would be better… Which reader, though? I’d have loved it if Kant had taken me by the hand instead of trying to be a scientist. I’d have loved it if Eliot had left out the educated bullshit that I had to look up. But writers aren’t like that. They do their own thing of their own time and their words reflect it all. I know my approach is offensive to some but I can’t spend my life being more popular. What comes out of me is me and that’s all there is to it.

  16. Vincent Says:

    I found my original comment appended here

  17. Vincent Says:

    I find Touch 3 disrespectful of the reader, obscuring the message that may be contained within it.

    There is disrespect too in referring to educated bullshit.

    I would like to admire Touch 3 as others admire Kant; but it (Touch 3) repels by its hectoring tone.

  18. Steven Holmes Says:

    That’s fine, Vincent. I have no expectation that you will ever like my tone.

  19. Steven Holmes Says:

    And “hectoring” is just a word. You have obviously never fully experienced being wrong. Compared with that, being hectored is a mere trifle.

  20. Vincent Says:

    I’m relieved that you didn’t consider my use of the word as a stick or a stone! I’ve never fully experienced having them thrown at me, either, but I’ve heard tell that they hurt. Which is not my intention here or anywhere.

  21. RichardDerwentC Says:

    I wonder whether are boundaries are merely notional. We designate ‘red lines’ which we will not cross or not allow others to do so. However, I suspect circumstances make liars of us all and these boundaries shift like the edge of a fog bank.

    The mistake we tend to make is feeling we have to defend them and deal with the aggression that this gives rise to.

    If we are truly ‘keyed in’ to the other person, I suspect we tend to understand, and this forgive, most ‘transgressions’

  22. Steven Holmes Says:

    Agreed, Richard. People can be so tight with their boundaries that they start vendettas when what appeared a transgression may have been merely routine clumsiness of spirit. I tend to test my boundaries with a hint of playful aggression and then see if the other person is mature enough to take it for what it is.

  23. Cora Says:

    With regard to Touch3:

    Yes, I believe strongly in the possibility that we know more than we think we’re knowing now… just as I believe that we don’t know how much we don’t know.
    I believe this work here, the message that Steve wants to share with us, his readers, invites us to take a journey together. Our minds can work together in this process.
    I can see our…attention or… energy or…our presence here like a thread, a thread in a kind of fabric.
    This fabric goes beyond our individual needs, it is more, and it is (imho) a phenomenon of our present days. We live our lives partly in the real world, partly in front of our computer. After all, think about how many hours each of us is spending online nowadays…

  24. Vincent Says:

    I haven’t been able to make sense of your Touch series, finding vituperation there rather than edification. But a mention by someone yesterday of Eckhart Tolle caused me to look him up, and see in him a sort of gentler version of Werner Erhard, which led me to examine (from a great distance of course) what they may have in common.

    From this standpoint I felt it was possible to make sense of your writings, though not in detail. At any rate I saw that my approach to life is so different that there can hardly be a meeting-ground in between.

    This approach begins and ends with respect: for oneself and others. It would preclude trying to mess with anyone’s head, as gurus do.

    And where I fail to see that respect, or cannot offer it, I distance myself. I don’t say this is how anyone else should act.

    But it breaks silence, and explains it.

  25. RealSteveHolmes Says:

    That’s fine with me, Vincent. You do your own thing, as always. And I’ll do mine.

  26. Cora Says:

    Quote from Touch 12, the inner voice of our Mind: “Am I getting my share? Am I high in the hierarchy? Am I being respected? Do they know who they’re talking to? I shouldn’t have to wait in line. Do I have enough (of the best) and with some to spare? How can I avoid any loss?”

    Very recognizable. It’s an automatism, thinking like this. Would be great to be able to break through this pattern…

  27. AnnG Says:

    Reading Touch 4 – and thinking about empathy.

    How much do we ever really understand each other? Thinking back again to the LSD experiences, there were times when we seemed to vividly share each other’s reality – but how much of that was just illusion because the logical, rational part was temporarily disabled or disoriented?

    We often take it for granted that we understand the same thinsg when we use the same words…but to me a dog is a big friendly creature and to my brother it is a terrifying monster. And that’s before we touch on words like “ego” and “feminism” which I know Steve and I have some history with…

    I do agree that all too often even when we believe we are communicating or understanding someone else, it is all about me, me, me… We project our good and bad qualities on to others, and interpret everything they say as if we were at the centre of the universe.

    And yet, sometimes, with people we care about – especially those we love or close friends – it does seem to me that we do make real, meaningful connections. Even across great distances, and communicated only through the keyboard – there have been times when I have felt truly heard and understood – and times when I think I have heard or understood someone else.

    Or is that just illusion?

  28. Cora Says:

    I share this illusion with you, Ann
    and I’m thinking about the difference between communication online and in the real, with regard to continuity. Is there a rule about the intervals in the conversation when we are friends with someone online…it seems to me that online friendships do have a long viability, but with a more superficial character…

  29. AnnG Says:

    I think it depends on each individual case.

    With some of my facebook friends – even those I have met – the friendship is more superficial, and exists mostly at the level of everyday chatter about relatively trivial things.

    However, with one or two of them, the surface, public chat is only one aspect – and we may discuss things that are deeper and more intimate in private mails. There is one facebook friend who I have never actually met, although I long to do so- with whom I have a great many things in common – similar experiences in childhood, and similar illnesses. We have supported each other over the past couple of years through health and emotional crises, and I genuinely feel much closer to her than I do to many people I see regularly – but who wouldn’t dream of opening up in the same way.

    Sometimes I think that online may allow us to get closer than we would in real life.

  30. Cora Says:

    What a coincidence, first reading this blog about ‘The Pleasant American’ and next watching the film ‘The people vs Larry Flint’…

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