Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Touch and Body Synchrony

I am gaining a deeper understanding of how to work with my fears. I am not yet able to articulate this understanding so instead I discuss another important topic: Proximity. Bryan Stevenson, in his book ``Just Mercy'' as well as many of his interviews, emphasizes the importance of proximity as the main and only way of getting a deep understanding of something:

“Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” ― Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

And yet, the ``proximity'' may seem like an abstract idea. So, I want to discuss it in a completely different setup: Courting behaviors of animals and human beings. In her book, ``Anatomy of Love,'' Helen Fisher describes David Givens (an anthropologist) and Timothy Perper (a biologist) systematic observations of Americans' courting process in social environments (such as cocktail lounges). They describe a general pattern involving five distinct stages of ``attention getting'' (entering the scene and attracting attention), ``recognition'' (which starts when eyes meet), ``grooming talk'' (a conversation in which hidden signals are more important than what is said), ``touching'' (physical proximity, which begins with ``intention cues'' and reaches the climax in an actual touch), and finally ``body synchrony'':

``Body synchrony is the final and most intriguing component of the pickup. As potential lovers become comfortable , they pivot or swivel until their shoulders become aligned, their bodies face-to-face.  ... after a while the man and woman begin to move in tandem. Only briefly at first. ... Then they desynchronize. In time, however, they mirror each other more and more. ...'' p. 29, Anatomy of Love, Helen Fisher
This tendency to synchrony is captured by ``dance'' rituals in different human cultures. The significance of synchrony goes beyond courting:

... body synchrony is basic to many social interactions ... Called interactional synchrony, this human mirroring begins in infancy. By the second day of life, a newborn has begun to synchronize its body movements with the rhythmic patterns of the human voice. ... people in many different cultures get into rhythm when they feel comfortable together. ... even brain waves get ``in sync'' when two people have a harmonious conversation. --- pp. 30-31, Anatomy of LoveHelen Fisher

I find it important that physical closeness is necessary, or at least an important facilitating factor, for the synchronous movement. This synchronicity is a metaphor for deeper understanding, or in fact, it is a bodily form of deep understanding. As sex appears to be the climax of body synchrony, we can imagine that it symbolizes a stage of union or integration that follow deep understanding.

Of course, here I am thinking about symbolism of consensual sex. The more non-consensual and violent sex becomes, it would correspond less to union/integration and more to dominance and exclusion. 

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