We often take warmth for granted and only notice it when it is gone.
The benefits of warmth, if we include touching and talking, are enormous.
Ashley Montagu, in his classic book, ‘Touching’, has demonstrated how touching boosts the health of all mammals-animals, children, adults.
Another classic study, conducted in forty-nine cultures by neurophysiologist James W. Prescott, shows that in societies where physical affection is lavished on infants, invidious displays of wealth, incidence of theft, killling and torturing of enemies are all low. In societies where infant physical affection is low, instead slavery is present, the status of women is inferior, and the gods are depicted as aggressive. Prescott sees warmth during infancy, and openness to bodily pleasure,as the best and easiest way to transform our psychobiology of violence into one of
Every day, countless people die or die a little bit for want of warmth: children left alone; underpaid and exploited workers; old people, lonely and forgotten by everyone in the anonymous world of big cities. And every day, thousands of people compensate for their chronic loveless state by all kinds of substitutes: filling themselves with food, pursuing loveless sex, seeking illusory happiness in the wonderlands of consumerism, or becoming violent.
Usually it is the sense of touch we associate most of all with warmth. But sound, which is a form of touch at a distance, can bring us warmth when we are out of reach.
Another aspect of warmth, which turns a biological reality into memory and metaphor, is closeness. Whoever is close is intimate and warm.
Whoever is remote is inaccessible and cold. At the beginning of our lives, this is a physical fact. Whoever is close holds us and touches us, gives us warmth, is well known to us. A newborn baby knows its mother by her smell. Later, this closeness becomes more and more subjective.
Someone close to us can also be thousands of miles away. Warmth becomes a more subtle but no less important quality. Intimacy is not only physical, but also psychological and spiritual. It is the capacity to enter and to let enter, to get to know and to allow to be known. To reveal our own dreams, our strangest and most embarrassing sides. To be without fear.
Piero Ferrucci – The Power of Kindness