7.02.2007

Reach Out and Touch Someone

I’ve been thinking about prisons and the absence of touch. The two go hand in hand, don’t they? Can’t an absence of touch land someone in prison, and can’t prison bring others to an absence of touch?

And then there is the prison that is the absence of touch, the prison that moves with you wherever you go. We don’t talk about that one, but we should. A lot of people live in that prison and something really should be done about it.

Not to defend the wrongdoers, but if we lock someone away for a crime committed, we must choose between a desire for punishment and a desire to return a healthy being to the world at the end of incarceration. If you have ever lived in the absence of touch, if you have ever lived in pockets of aloneness that turned to pockets of loneliness, you know that that is not the way to become whole. Maybe for short periods of time where there are lessons to be learned, but prolonged, that absence of touch is a killer mightier than any sword, deadlier than any weapon of mass destruction. It may not kill your body, but it kills your spirit.

I think of what gets prisoners to prison in the first place, what turned the innocent child into the not so innocent, what birthed the cruel and the heartless, the one to be feared and hated. If we want a healed society, we all must care. We must reconcile the religious view of good vs. evil and the belief in the Devil embodied with earthly context and opportunity and injustice and inequity. We must remember what hurt and sadness and isolation breed.

My stepfather was a doctor who believed in the healing power of hugs. He mandated a hug a day for everyone, prescribed it like medicine. And you could see the instant effect from resistance to acceptance to easing into the moment.

And no, I have no idea how to apply this to prisons and prisoners. I have to idea how to connect the unconnected in the world, the criminals and upstanding citizens alike, the ones who go days and weeks and years without the simple touch of affection, the ones who never get to spill the words choking the base of their throats, who want to bond with another, who want to find a way to liberate what is buried within, who want feedback and guidance and consolation and comfort, who want to offer the same in exchange. I have no idea.

I think of the traveling prison of isolation and what that does to our society. Despite the connection that technology offers, that solution is feeble compared to the power of touch to heal all that wounds. But maybe if we put our heads together, if those who live enfolded share their success, the rest can find a way to join in. Maybe if we reexamine the goal of incarceration, if we intervene sooner and better, maybe we can cut the number of victims. And maybe, just maybe, if we start talking about all this we can move forward towards a whole lot of healing.

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Unrelated (except in the way that everything is related)...
Please visit this site and watch the video on how our supermarket workers are currently suffering. Please. Please. And then sign the pledge...

7 comments:

Tabba said...

As I read this, I was reminded of a quote by Princess Diana, of all people....I have never forgotten it.
She was talking about her humanitarian work. And how it was so important to give a hug, a touch on the hand.
(i'll have to search for the actual quote).

This post is so true.
There is a long road of hurt that many people have travelled.
And we all need to show we care. We need to be kind.

Excellent, excellent post.

QT said...

What a great post and I think, very true. Many people in prison have not had a kind words aid to them even as a small child.

What makes one person raised in that environment grow up to be a "model citizen", and another, in the same environment, end up in jail? That is what I wonder. Because if we can find out, maybe we can bridge the gap.

notfainthearted said...

What a great post. It makes me think that my current drought of touch can have the purpose of making me more attuned to those whose drought has been even longer.

You are right, we must begin to talk more about this.

Also, the link to the supermarket swindle video was very related. I think that the isolation we experience when taken to extremes is what allows one human being to be oblivious to the struggles of another.

kristen said...

Honestly I've never thought of it this way, but it makes perfect sense.

"If you have ever lived in the absence of touch, if you have ever lived in pockets of aloneness that turned to pockets of loneliness, you know that that is not the way to become whole."

Yes.

jen said...

sister, there is so much here. the societal isolation, the imposed isolation, the utter loneliness and what it can do to a soul...and how easy it can be to assume that once the "incident" of isolation ends that everything returns to normal.

Delton said...

As always, your words hold so much meaning. Little by little, amongst all of the horrible things happening in this world, it seems like there may be hope for healing. Whether it's finding a way to add touch to an inmate's rehabilitation, to touching children who are lacking a loving example in their lives, to signing the pledge on supermarket swindle, if enough of us begin to look outside ourselves and think about our fellow humans, we may just tip the balance to decency.

Anonymous said...

Something like this:
http://www.liberationprisonproject.com/index2.html
might also be of interest to you.
I have not been involved in anything along these lines myself (nor am I 'officially' buddhist) but I have been thinking about it. I believe that e.g. the zen centers in many cities will have programs like this. As I understand it they specifically don't proselytise in that the prisoners come to them requesting contact rather than the reverse. I believe it often helps the requestors a lot to have this kind of contact (especially when they are denied other kinds) and to help them grapple with their incarceration better.