On Haptic Pleasures: an Avalanche, the Internet, and Handwriting
If I decided to go mountain climbing and if, while I was climbing, the forces on the mountain snow exceeded the snow’s strength and an avalanche formed, sweeping me downhill and burying me in snow and ice, and if global warming somehow didn’t end my indefinite winter and if my preserved body were discovered millennia from now by climbers from a civilization with the capacity to date snowbound bodies with delicate instruments and sensitive forensic tests, and if that civilization’s scientists, interested in my provenance, made me the object of their study, they may be able to date me to the age of elaborate dentistry, pasteurized, fortified cow’s milk, and wireless radiation that has shaped me. But my skeleton perhaps makes another admission that dates me more exactly: on the third joint of my middle finger on my right hand I have a bone spur. This bump formed incrementally over years from my constant use of pens and pencils. I read recently that people born before 1985 are of the last generation to have grown up without the internet, and my body (b. 1980) carries the marks of my generation, perhaps the last generation of the writing bump on the dominant hand. I type now as much as I handwrite, but handwriting remains for me an integral part of reading and writing, which are always for me haptic pleasures. I never read without a pencil in my hand and a pen nearby with my notebook. I always begin writing with a pen in my notebook before moving to typing. I remember when this writing bump formed—I was in grade 1—and I was amazed and proud and delighted with its emergence. I often ran, and still do run, my pointer finger over the bump unconsciously, a habit that soothes. Even now I take pleasure in understanding that my body has come to accommodate writing and to be shaped by it, that this shape is perceptible, and that the slow sedimentation of bone rising up both to meet and to enable the act of writing is continuously occurring, though itself imperceptible. The questions of the intersection of body and mind, of thought and action, of a thinking that occurs on the level of the body, are for me indistinguishable from the physical processes of reading and writing.
Julie Joosten is the author of Light Light (Book Thug, 2013), which was a finalist for the Governor General's Award for Poetry. She lives in Toronto.