If you search on “touch” on Google Images, this is what you will find:

Responsive screens.

But human touch has not yet been relegated entirely to mutual capacitance.  Our hands are still instruments of infinite kindness and intelligence, and expertise.  Expertise is not necessarily the first thing one thinks of in relation to kindness, but so often it is one’s technical intimacy that allows for alacrity and subtlety of response.

I thought of this phenomenon this morning, in the laundry room, which is also the bike room, as my friend Shundo checked over the bike of a friend who had gotten “doored” to make sure it was still safe to ride.  I really appreciated the ease and skill evident in his attention to the bike, turning it upside down, spinning the wheel to see if it was crooked on the fork.  “I was just checking that everything was straight, to see if the wheels had buckled, if the steering column was misaligned.”  With his hand, he knocked along the length of the frame, to listen for where it might have cracked, “I don’t know how aluminum sounds; I just wanted to see if it all sounded the same.”

I was talking to Jungian psychologist Polly Young-Eisendrath, about this kind of agility last spring in the course of discussing her presentation in SFZC’s series, The Expert’s Mind and in an email, she commented,

“True expertise leads to greater spontaneity and creativity rather than the opposite. I read something recently about orginators in all fields: that their skills and competences are “overlearned” and so, they don’t need props or notes or special routines anymore. They are freed of the kinds of constraints that mark “beginners” within a field. The Beginner’s Mind is, I believe, the freshness of attending to what is arising in direct experience. Often “experts” are better able to do this because they are unworried about the routine, the trivial and the superficial.”

As I listened to Shundo tapping along the bike frame for invisible fractures, I thought again of an article from Saturday’s Times in which trauma surgeon, describing the procedures Dr. Bellal Joseph performed on Suzi Hileman, who arrived in the ER with gunshot wounds to her abdomen, chest and thigh.

Within moments, Dr. Joseph made a small incision to examine Ms. Hileman’s heart. There were no signs of damage. But there were six bullet holes in her chest, abdomen and legs. He followed the possible trajectories, making sure that he was not missing any damage. He ran his fingers down her intestines, making sure that there were no holes that could potentially cause bleeding or infection.

Yes.  He ran his fingers down her intestines.

“I have held every piece of her organs in my own hands. Her heart was in my hand, her spleen was is in my hand. Her liver was in my hand.”

As he says, “There is no better scan that that.”