In Orwell's Head
We find ourselves in a bizarre place these days, somewhere between George Orwell's future technological apocalypse and Robin Cook's medical apocalypse brought about by a pandemic. Okay, maybe we're closer to Cook than Orwell, but the end result is just as deadly. We have to fear each other in ways we've not had to for generations. In an America of gun violence and street warfare, the loaded gun now is the human touch.
My father passed from Alzheimer's last month, but one of the only things left to us in those last days was touch. The ability to hold his hand, touch his arm, and kiss his forehead as he left this earth was vital to all of us who loved him. Had Dad passed one month later, he'd have passed alone. Facilities are all on lock down for good reasons, but it doesn't change a fundamental piece of the human puzzle. We are a chain, interconnected throughout history and time.
Technology has distanced us from each other placing us all on an equal plane. Whether it's my kids or my neighbors or my mom, I meet them online. I find out what's going on with them by going online. I haven't "talked" on a phone for decades. I can just chat online without the hassle of a call where I might be inconvenienced by holding a phone or using headsets or ear buds, which dull sound for those hard of hearing like my mom. My son texts me when we're in the same room. My husband, also. Orwell had reason to fear our relationship with technology; not because it represents evil, but because it represents the ability to hide. Like a turtle, I shrink into my shell, and I only leave when forced by the humans around me. Technology has cost us so much more than touch.
Preemies are placed skin on skin with a parent because touch is more than comforting. It's healing. A hard cellular phone provides little of Maslov's essential human needs. When we're stuck in isolation, it provides us with the ability to "look at" our loved ones, sure. But when a loved one is dying, it's cold comfort to see but not touch. While we seek to buy toilet paper in quantity(seriously?), remember that in the midst of this public health crisis are flesh and blood humans connected to us as we are connected to them. Focus your prayers on others, not yourself. Focus your prayers on their loved ones, not the latest video game. When the end of the world comes, we won't long for toilet paper or Kleenex or a video game.
We'll long for that human touch.