Monday, October 8, 2012

On Touch

I just completed Helen Keller's The World I Live In this morning. I found it fascinating. She spends the majority of her time discussing the power of touch, how the senses of seeing and hearing are in no way crucial to her understanding of and experience with the world--how feeling implanted an imagination and intuition about happenings and characters. She writes,

"There is nothing, however, misty or uncertain about what we can touch. Through the sense of touch I know the faces of friends, the illimitable variety of straight and curved lines, all surfaces...I derive much knowledge of every-day matter from the jars and jolts which are felt everywhere in the house."

Which then got me thinking about our experiences with this class--and the book's connection to Limited Fork Theory. If Keller's purpose is not only to allow her reader to understand her point of view, but to additionally shed light on the ability to experience the world whole-heartedly through physical touch, then perhaps our attempts to gain knowledge about this world should expand beyond the internet and what we can attain through a computer screen. Keller's senses would feel computer keys, buttons, that essentially cannot lead her to the infiniteness of what's inside--yet she attests to being at no greater loss than the seeing or the hearing. The power of touch. I am currently reading another book, Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, in which the speaker writes:

"if we human beings are information processing machines, reading X's and O's and translating that information into what people oh so breathlessly call 'experience,' and if I had access to all that same information via cable TV and any number of magazines that I browsed through at Hudson News for four- and five-hour stretches on my free days...if I had not only the information but the artistry to shape that information using the computer inside my brain...then, technically speaking, was I not having all the same experiences those other people were having?
     I tested my theory by standing outside the public library at Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street...
     ...Like all failed experiments, that one taught me something I didn't expect: one key ingredient of so-called experience is the delusional faith that it is unique and special, that those included in it are privileged and those excluded from it are missing out. And I, like a scientists unwittingly inhaling toxic fumes from the beaker I was boiling in my lab, had, through sheer physical proximity, been infected by that same delusion and in my drugged state had come to believe I was Excluded."

So, perhaps we cannot gain knowledge and experience with the world, but rather only within it. I chose to read the books for this class as hard copies, renting from the library...that is, not as e-Books. While e-Books are interactive, and are immediately connecting you to what I mentioned above as the infiniteness of the Internet, the physical book allows me to physically interact with the actual world while I read it. And while I am not making an argument for the e-Book vs. physical book debate, I think Helen Keller was able to provide me with a little insight, and a little inspiration, about our ability to gain knowledge about this world through the power of touch. 

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely! --powers of intimacy can't be denied! --of course, forms of technology --including e-books, offer different forms of intimacy --evolutions of intimacy! --what would/could this form of world offer to the Helen Kellers? --What does it offer, since there are many forms of birth, and many forms of existence --some forms seem to prosper more depending on what's offered? ;s how might "books" change to accommodate different sensory ranges?

    --a camera is a tactile device (there are books by a number of blind [and that includes, I feel, most of us] photographers); for instance:,29307,1897093,00.html

    please, check out this video:'

    --and considering power of touch (and associated probems with assisting those with impaired sense understand vastness of this universe): please also chek out:

    here's info abput that book on the "Hubble Space Telescope" website:

    and this from the Galludet University site:

    --here's some questions: should these (apparent) deficits be repaired? --or are these other versions, variations of a "normal" usually much too narrow? who isn't impaired in some way? Do human senses capture everything? --and how should we determine what this "everything" is?

    --Just asking, and hoping that these questions are only a form of start!