I’d intended to write a Jeremiad about this bit of viciousness — thank you, John Hinderaker, for bringing that to my attention — but I’m just recently back from Sunday Mass, and events, or perhaps non-events, have pointed me in another direction for today’s tirade.

     You’re unlikely to read anything else today like what follows the three little asterisks immediately below. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing, I leave to your discretion.


     Touch is the most fundamental sense. A baby experiences it, all over, before he is born and long before he learns to use sight, hearing, or taste, and no human ever ceases to need it. Keep your children short on pocket money, but long on hugs. – Robert A. Heinlein

     Many years ago, there lived a brilliant man named Eric Berne. He was educated as a psychiatrist and became known as a specialist in transactional analysis. After publishing a scholarly work on the subject, he decided that a book appropriate to the intelligent layman would be valuable as well. That book, Games People Play, became a mass-market best-seller, and justifiably so. Dr. Berne had produced a lucid, easily comprehended work on the most common games we play with one another…and why.

     The book remains essential reading for laymen interested in why we behave in some of the more recognizable patterns between and among us. However, what I want to bring to my Gentle Readers’ attention this morning is an observation Dr. Berne made in his Introduction about the human need for interaction with others:

     Experimentally, [sensory] deprivation may call forth a transient psychosis, or at least give rise to temporary mental disturbances. In the past, social and sensory deprivation is noted to have had similar effects in individuals condemned to long periods of solitary imprisonment….

     On the biological side, it is probable that emotional and sensory deprivation tends to bring about or encourage organic changes. If the reticular activating system of the brain stem is not sufficiently stimulated, degenerative changes in the nerve cells may follow, at least indirectly. This may be a secondary effect due to poor nutrition, but the poor nutrition itself may be a product of apathy, as in infants suffering from marasmus. Hence a biological chain mat be postulate leading from emotional and sensory deprivation through apathy to degenerative changes and death. In this sense, stimulus-hunger has the same relationship to survival as food-hunger….

     What has been said so far may be summarized by the colloquialism: ‘If you are not stroked, your spinal cord will shrivel up.’

     Ponder that for a moment, in the light of your own needs and desires.


     I tend to be dismissive toward women who promote themselves as sources of advice, as it has always seemed to me to display a characteristic female arrogance. Nevertheless, Web-based “advice goddesses” abound. Each has her own “thing,” to which she’ll recur as a fundamental principle whenever she’s faced by a question for which she’s not prepared…regardless of whether it’s at all relevant to the question. However, I’m somewhat impressed by Jennifer Moleski, whose outlook strikes me as more modest than the great majority of her “colleagues.” Mind you, I don’t agree with everything she promotes, but then, I’ve never met anyone with whom I agree on everything.

     Most of Miss Moleski’s YouTube pieces address interactions between men and women, especially husbands and wives. Her “thing,” broadly speaking, is that we should treat one another better, with emphasis on how women should treat their men. That’s one of the more pressing problems attendant to marital fragility. Quite a lot of marriages and long-term relationships fail because of a lack of “strokes:” in the most common cases, her reluctance to touch him.

     I’m not talking about sex; that’s a special case of a more general problem. Touch itself is vitally important to human health, as Eric Berne has noted above. The decline in physical contact observable in many long-term relationships augurs poorly for its permanence. The deterioration in women’s overall attitude toward and treatment of men is a larger problem still. (Andrea “Bookworm” Widburg has penned some thoughts about it, if you’re interested.)

     I would venture to say that the older a man is, the more he needs the reaffirmation of his value to his woman that’s provided through touch: her touching him. Indeed, I’d go further: women’s increasing reluctance to touch their men after they’ve been together some number of years probably contributes to men’s lives being shorter. (It’s not just because women don’t marry women, Alan King’s classic skit notwithstanding.)

     Once more with feeling, this is not about sex. It’s about the communication that occurs with touch: that she values him. Where touch is absent, words are insufficient. Women cannot claim not to know this. Look at how often and casually they touch one another.


     Just now, owing to the wholly fraudulent COVID-19 “pandemic” – what other pandemic has resulted in so few ambulance visits? – the United States is suffering a “stroke drought.” People are more reluctant to touch one another than ever before in my memory. It’s observable at any Catholic Mass. Tell a young Catholic that not terribly long ago, the “kiss of peace” involved an actual embrace, and he’s likely to look at you as if you’ve sprouted a second head. Yet it is so.

     (I wrote about this in a humorous vein, long before I realized what was being done to us, why, and what would probably flow from it. Today I wish I hadn’t been quite so flippant. Though the Fortress has accumulated a rather nice stock of spatulas.)

     I’m not a medical man and would not presume to pontificate as one. What I can say, with confidence, is that the stroke drought is having bad effects, both individually and socially. Why won’t you shake my hand? Do you think it’s dirty? There’s more physical contact among muggers and their victims than between lovers and friends. It’s a sign of how effective the propaganda has been at accelerating our medicalization.

     Need I say explicitly that this is bad? Need I point out specific cases of “strokeless anomie” and its consequences? Need I unpack the message of fear and distrust that’s implicit in every avoidance of touch? Great God in heaven, we can see it all around us. It’s probably a major contributor toward the transgender craze, to say nothing of the exponential proliferation of chiropractors and massage studios.

     I could go on, but I won’t. Touch one another. Shake hands; it’s the longest-standing gesture of trust. Hug those you love; there’s no better way to say I value you and want you near me. And as the Redeemer said over and over and over again:

Be not afraid.

     May God bless and keep you all.


    • Tracy C Coyle on August 21, 2022 at 1:12 PM

    I am never tired and always uplifted by your writing.  And I can’t be MORE supportive of the idea that hugging each other is vital to our (and their) emotional, psychological and PHYSICAL wellbeing.  Thanks!

    • Mark on August 21, 2022 at 11:37 PM

    Jim Butcher, in one of his excellent “Dresdin Files” books made a similar observation:

    There’s power in the touch of another person’s hand. We acknowledge it in little ways, all the time. There’s a reason human beings shake hands, hold hands, slap hands, bump hands.

    “It comes from our very earliest memories, when we all come into the world blinded by light and color, deafened by riotous sound, flailing in a suddenly cavernous space without any way of orienting ourselves, shuddering with cold, emptied with hunger, and justifiably frightened and confused. And what changes that first horror, that original state of terror?

    “The touch of another person’s hands.

    “Hands that wrap us in warmth, that hold us close. Hands that guide us to shelter, to comfort, to food. Hands that hold and touch and reassure us through our very first crisis, and guide us into our very first shelter from pain. The first thing we ever learn is that the touch of someone else’s hand can ease pain and make things better.

    “That’s power. That’s power so fundamental that most people never even realize it exists.

    Jim Butcher, Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)

    1. Gorgeous.

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