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Lions Roar : July 2014
It took a moment, but then it dawned on me: pretty often. Mil- lions of people have watched the same TV show, the same YouTube video, the same movie on netflix. having a common point of refer- ence was nothing new. It was just that our original common point of reference, the sky, had been moved inside, to smaller screens. It was kind of ingenious, if you thought about it. The World Festival was a logistical nightmare. But if you couldn’t bring everyone to the show, why not bring the show to everyone? You still knew you were watching what everyone else was watching. You could still talk about it with everyone afterward; you just had to post your comments online. You never had to wonder where you’d parked your car. And you never had to wait in line at the port-a-potty. You could have all the feeling of belonging without any of the discomfort of gathering. All of the community, none of the hassle. All of the connection, none of the vulnerability. The World Festival was happening. You just had to tune in. tHe word abSurd ComeS From the Latin surdus, which means deaf. This suggests that if you can’t hear the wind moving in the treetops or the fall of your own footsteps on the ground, your life can’t help but become disengaged from meaning. Imag- ine walking deep into a forest with no sounds, no branches snapping underfoot, no cries of far-off birds, only the phantom rhythm of your own breath. The link between the senses and our orientation in the world isn’t just etymology or metaphor. Modern studies suggest that alienated people feel detached from their senses; they also suggest that feeling detached from our senses can make us feel alienated. The most obvious sense we need for contact with the world is touch. Studies show that a baby needs to be held, to feel its body against something, preferably its mother, to locate itself in space and feel secure. Gentle touch from anyone or anything, even from a swaddling blanket, helps babies stay healthy. Take away that touch, and a baby shows distress—the inability to gain weight, a quickening of heart rate, a depressed immune system, fitful cry- ing. You could argue this is simply an evolutionary adaptation: the baby wails, the mother tends to him, the baby has a better chance of survival. But in experiments with monkeys, when a mother’s touch was removed and then returned, even though the baby monkey eventually grew calm, its body remained more susceptible to disease, which clearly isn’t an evolutionary advantage. My bet is this response isn’t just the trauma of lost love or lost nourish- ment, but the trauma of lost orientation on the most primal level: a sense of spatial abandonment from which the body never quite recovers. As much as the trauma might be said to be psychologi- cal, that psychological aspect starts in the baby’s body, which has already begun to need a physical, sensory trust with the world. on July FIFtH, I talked to my father on the phone. he’d watched the fireworks on his iPad. “Quite spectacular,” he said. “Gets more elaborate every year, doesn’t it?” There was nothing unusual about his comments. he probably would have said the very same thing had he been there in person. SHAMBHALA SUN JULy 2014 74