Under ‘normal’ circumstances, “intimacy” designates a closeness, a proximity, an alignment, a fusion even. Such intimacy is then attributed to two souls, minds, hearts, or bodies.
But there is an other sense of intimacy that I have never noticed this vividly before. It is more profound, yet very subtle. It is only the pandemic + alienation experience that led me to see it like this.
Typically, people politely criticise this online-everything life as being “not the same”. Of course it is not the same when your work, your social life, your love life, your entertainment, travel, and… being are all done behind a screen. But what is actually missing?
It is precisely this ‘intimacy’.
What is missing is the color of the world when you leave your house every morning, is the chatter of people in the waiting line, the warmth of the stuffed bus, the colors of your colleague’s outfit at work, the mixture of perfumes in the elevator… And it is even more subtle than this when one considers the littlest encounters we have on a typical day: That pigeon who flew over your head, the forgettable and extremely uncomfortable chair at the train station, the clinking noise of the traffic light…
And such, this intimacy with everyday life is only experienced in the closeness, proximity, and fusion with being-in the experience. I can talk to a friend for 3 hours on Zoom, but it is acutely lacking when compared to sitting in the same room together, drinking from the same bottle, feeling their presence, fully hearing every bit of sound they make, seeing every little body expression, hugging them tightly as they leave, with their scent hanging in the air and your mind for a brief second.
Yet here I picked an easy example, as this intimacy isn’t just about other people, but extends to every-thing we used to do in our daily lives; like the intimacy with your office, classroom, and lab, with everything that’s there: the temperature of the lighting, the texture of your desk, the smell of the ink, the street noise from the windows, the distant laughing of fellows… It is the unconscious fulfillment of the visual, the tactile, the olfactory, the auditory, the emotional, the rational … the living experience that each part of us demands all the time.
This intimacy of everyday life is typically taken for granted. They are the constant that our minds keep skipping over and ignoring because there are more important stuff to think about -project, presentation, progress, ideas, hopes, dreams… (Who gives a shit about the pigeon? Those chairs are really a pain in the ass! Why is the bus too crowded today?) We take them for granted exactly because they’re fulfilling their purpose. They are creating the necessary texture of your daily experience. They are offering the basic stimulations that your senses always crave.
Then suddenly, even this experiential foundation disappears.
“Thank God for technology and the internet, we can do everything from home!”