Tuesday, October 27, 2009

disembodied daily

"Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow*"

Disembodied, now that's not a word that comes up everyday, but we do it daily.
But the more I think on it, the more and more we are moving toward a disembodied life.
If you take disembodied to mean to divest from substance or materials, technology is purposefully moving me away from touch. Removing the body from the equation.
It's hit me several times this year how much I don't touch things.
Take the airport as an example.
I don't touch the toilet in the airport (and granted who would want to?), I don't touch the sink either to switch on the water. I wave and dance and sometimes talk to these motion sensors to cajole them into working, but touch? rarely. And now the soap and the paper towel holder have incorporated this same (sometimes functional) ability to dispense. Not until I am confronted with a sink that requires turning a knob do I realize how strange it is that I would stand in front of it waving my hands in vain.
Mixing technologies in the bathroom are just as bad as mixed metaphors. A toilet that needs me to flush it coupled with a sink that is motion detected, normally these combinations result in an embarrassing assumption on my part: I try to flick something on that won't work or walk away from something, forgetting to do my part.
I consider it a forced indolence.
For a tactile learner not touching is a difficult to rationalize. I want to open automatic doors, roll out my own paper towel, decide if I need lights on or off. If I need two pumps of soap, there is probably a good reason for it.

Have you noticed the extent we take to not get our hands dirty?
I am surrounded by "makers" which are artificial limbs: a bread maker a dishwasher.

Are we a tactility defensive generation?

I drove to Jiffy Lube the other day. My headlight wire is crimped. I have been to many different Jiffy Lubes to alleviate the problem. It simply requires jiggling the wire. As much as I love asking Rodney at the Hanley and Delmar Lube to adjust this crimp week after week, I had failed to have him teach me how to fix my own problem. And it had gotten beyond embarrassing. I took it upon myself to fix it, but try as I might, I didn't know how to open my hood. I pulled the lever. It popped up. I stuck my hand under the hood. Tugged. Tugged harder. Bent my knees, pulled. "Gesture without motion.*" Nothing more than a jarring sensation.
Thus thwarted, I shoved the hood down.
And I found another Lube. Here I anonymously pulled into the carport. And instead of staying in the car to be waited on I got out, almost slipped on the oiled floor, and explained the problem. Then I made the man teach me how to open the hood. Pleaded being stupid. He assured me there was "no such thing."
It took several times. Hand over hand he showed me. He might have wanted to recant saying stupid didn't exist. I practiced a few times with him, and then did it on my own. And he taught me also where the faulty wire was. How to find it, jostle it into forming a circuit. And presto. There was light.
It went out right after I drove away. But I had learned. I had slipped on an oily floor, and reached inside a car. I had touched.

*The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot

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