Near Life Experience

Everyone seems to agree that one of the casualties of this crisis is our interpersonal life. The first thing to die of Covid-19 was the handshake, which had long been seen as one of the guarantors of humanity’s ability to close gaps between individuals. The handshake had been in the street long before the hug planned its interlaced takeover a decade ago with the free-hug movement. Now it’s gone, and so is hugging, at least in a public sense.

We’ve scrambled to set up huts over their ruins, not unlike those medieval hovels which multiplied on the site of ancient fora after the fall of Rome. We’ve come up with approximations, replacements, simulacra, like elbow bumps and distant waves. We’ve had to throw all our money into telecommunications, the only bridges now available and able to connect our castaway isles with each other. Connect, but not enclasp, rope but not enfold. As we explore the limits of our remote interactions, asking technology to fill the germ-free void, we become ever more anxious for the human touch. Some are luckier than others, sharing their confinement with friends and family. Others, like myself, haven’t seen a friendly face that had a natural depth of field around it. We Zoom, but cannot see.

Until we’re allowed to break out of this moral coma, every day is a near life experience, a shave with a world in tatters. We come close to experiencing the fullness of our human transactions in the many ways we’re organising our smart detention, but the effect is that of an immersion that doesn’t get us wet. However many retina and tactile screens we surround ourselves with, the hunger and the thirst for genuine contact cannot lift us from our shared infirmity.



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