11 August 2011
Activity – showing tenderness to an object
I was glad it wasn’t soft or gooey, like those disgusting substances in closed boxes people shove their hands in to show how brave they are. Showing tenderness involves a lot of touching. Also involves moving. You cannot be tender in a fixed position. Sometimes it is also making modification(s) to the object to make it feel/look prettier.

Brushing a stray lock of hair away from their faces. Holding hands. Craddling their head in my palm. Taking in the scent of shampoo (most times its sweat). Faces almost touching. Lips pressed to cheeks.

I try to do these for my nieces as much as I can. Because I don’t remember receiving much of them as a kid. I don’t think my parents did as kids either. The nuns at the orphanage probably can’t spare much of it because they have too many babies. And I can’t spare much of it because I have too much hurts. The only time my mom and I touch each other nowadays is when I carry her between bed and commode; a forced embrace too heavy for my back to prolong.

Recently, I picked up the book ‘Fearfully and Wonderfully Made’ by Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. It’s a pretty awesome book, mostly reflections of a doctor on our physical bodies and how it relates to scripture and Jesus’ teachings. In the chapter on skin, Brand talks about an experiment done on monkeys by a fellow Doctor Harlow.

Harlow placed 2 artificial ‘mothers’ in a cage, one made of wire mesh and one made of terry cloth, and trained 4 baby monkeys to approach each mother for milk. They then observed that all 8 babies started to spent all their time huddling with the terry cloth mother. The 4 that were assigned to the terry cloth mother hugged her, patted her and perched on her. The other 4 assigned to the wire mesh mother went to her only for feeding, but returned to the terry cloth mother for comfort and protection.

“Harlow concluded: We were not surprised to discover that contact comfort was an important basic affectional or love variable, but we did not expect it to overshadow so completely the variable of nursing; indeed the disparity is so great as to suggest that the primary function of nursing is that of insuring frequent and intimate body contact of the infant with the mother. Certainly, man cannot live by milk alone.”

I know it’s really weird, but affection actually plays a big part in my discernment of vocation. The need and desire to both receive and give is really important to me. And sometimes I’m not sure if this emphasis on affection is right. It is as though I am implying Jesus who reaches to humanity through the Eucharist is not enough. The only place Jesus touches me is my hands and tongue.

Yet He calls us to be His hands and feet. He calls us to go beyond giving alms; to hold hands as though we are holding hearts, to bless people by laying hands on heads, to wipe away messy tears. Because we aren’t just spiritual beings, we are physical too.


von likes frangipani visually, and lilies olfactorily. she is into writing, although she doesn’t write all that much. and she likes coming up with new words that is at once understood because of the rest of the sentence. she is like those words, whose purpose is made known by the presence of others.


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