This beautiful passage was written by the French philosopher Jacques Lusseyran in his book, And There Was Light. At the age of seven, Professor Lusseyran lost his sight due to a childhood accident.
This passage has become a classic in the understanding of the deeper impact of touch.
When I had eyes, my fingers used to be stiff, half dead at the ends of my hands, good only for picking up things. But now each one of them started out on its own. They explored things separately, changed levels and, independently of one another, made themselves heavy or light.
Movement of the fingers was terribly important, and had to be uninterrupted because objects do not stand at a given point, fixed there, confined in one form. They are alive, even the stones. What is more they vibrate and tremble. My fingers felt the pulsation distinctly, and if they failed to answer with a pulsation of their own, the fingers immediately became helpless and lost their sense of touch. But when they went towards things, in sympathetic vibration with them, they recognized them right away.
Yet there was something still more important than movement, and that was pressure. If I put my hand on the table without pressing it, I knew the table was there, but knew nothing about it. To find out, my fingers had to bear down, and the amazing thing is that the pressure was answered by the table at once. Being blind I thought I should have to go out to meet things, but I found that they came to meet me instead. I have never had to go more than halfway, and the universe became the accomplice of all my wishes.
If my fingers pressed the roundness of an apple, each one with a different weight, very soon I could not tell whether it was the apple or my fingers which were heavy. I didn’t even know whether I was touching it or it was touching me. As I became part of the apple, the apple became part of me. And that was how I came to understand the existence of things.
As soon as my hands came to life they put me in a world where everything was an exchange of pressures. These pressures gathered together in shapes, and each one of the shapes had meaning. As a child I spent hours leaning against objects and letting them lean against me. Any blind person can tell you that this gesture, this exchange, gives him a satisfaction too deep for words.
Touching the tomatoes in the garden, and really touching them, touching the walls of the house, the materials of the curtains or a clod of earth is surely seeing them, it is tuning in on them and allowing the current they hold to connect with one’s own, like electricity. To put it differently, this means an end of living in front of things and a beginning of living with them. Never mind if the words sound shocking, for this is love.
You cannot keep your hands from loving what they have really felt.
Jacques Lusseyran, And There Was Light, Morning Light Press, 1998.