High-touch and Happiness

High-touch and Happiness

High-touch and Happiness

Funny how jargon comes and goes, isn’t it? What I used to call sensitivity is now called High-touch. It means the same thing but says it in such a way that we avoid a possible sense of guilt for being insensitive. So ‘not-so-high-touch’ or, even, ‘low-touch’ allows us to avoid plain English. And a suspicion that we might suffer from it ourselves. Sensitivity and high-touch are back in the news. And so they should be. They are the question we have to ask ourselves about the next species of humankind. Do we want it, with all the suffering it implies or do we want to be insensitive?

High-touch is gentle, is sweet, is kind. The word is used to compound the expression we have had for a long time but hardly dare use at all now, ‘touching’. The episodes that gave rise to ‘MeToo!’ have made us wary of implying any form of physical contact with another human being for fear of being accused of sexual harassment. How sad. In Britain if you comfort-cuddle a sick child that is not you own you are liable to end up in prison – and the child in therapy for life. Even sadder.

How have we cultivated sensitivity over the last century? Indeed, do we want to? Never to feel sorrow, pain, angst might be a perfect state, mightn’t it? Well, not for me, it wouldn’t. I want to feel emotions, to see beauty, to appreciate love, to aspire to kindness. The price is pain, disillusion, failure sometimes for having trusted and been let down. It is a price well worth paying to be able to gaze at a picture, admire a fantastic view, enjoy a well-played symphony, see sensational dancing.

Our attitude to high-touch has been ambiguous. We have tried to educate arts but still wonder if they can be taught. We have bombarded the body with inputs ranging from computer games to drugs in the hope of stimulating excitement and satisfaction – only to discover that true excitement comes from creating not destroying, from discipline, not laxness, from giving, not taking. We have made noise on a scale undreamt of only to find that we are now deaf to many useful messages.

When my children were born and people asked me what I wanted for them I replied ‘Sensitivity’. It is a wish that has been granted. Unfortunately for many other parents the wish was wealth. That too has often been granted but often, alas, without the resulting happiness. What shall we do now to help ensure the survival of high-touch as we move into the new humanoid era?

First, take a few simple examples of great beauty, of passionate kindness, of stalwart trust and above all of thoughtfulness. Proclaim them for what they are – the foundation of the human spirit.
Second, make heroes of those who exhibit these characteristics. The media can make heroes of anyone they want. Perhaps they could now come forward to do this vital job for humankind?

Third, bend our considerable abilities to measure things to measuring happiness instead of materialism. Some recent surveys attempting to establish what will make people happy have unfortunately missed the point. They assume people know the answers. Since people often don’t know themselves they cannot hope to know what will make them happy. Start by knowing yourself. Then discover that less miserable is not the same as happy. Every child knows that.

Fourth, watch a sunset and work out what it is. When you realise that it is not the end of a day you have taken the first step towards understanding happiness.

You will never look back.