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Exercises In Touch

( Originally Published 1907 )

"THE sense of touch is the most positive of all the senses in the character of its sensations. In many respects it is worthy to be called the leading sense." Noah Porter.

" All the senses are modifications of the sense of touch." Demosthenes.


Mind thrown into or abstracted from physical feeling at Will;

Will-attention making Will-action deliberative and second-nature;

Will prohibitions rendering mind supreme at least cost.


"The sensations of contact and temperature," says Royce, " are due to the excitation of points on the skin which differ for the various special sorts of experiences in question. Experiment shows that certain points of the skin are especially sensitive to stimulations given by cold objects, while other points are sensitive to disturbances due to hot objects. Our ordinary sensory experience of warmth or of cold is due to a complex excitement of many points of both these types. Still other points on the skin very wealthily interspersed among the others, give us, if excited in isolation, sensations of contact or of pressure. Complex sensory excitations, due to the disturbances of the skin, sometimes with and sometimes without, notable accompanying organic disturbances, give us our experiences of hard and soft, of rough and smooth, of dry and moist objects."

There are many very curious facts to be observed in connection with touch. The degree of feeling arising from touch is usually dependent to a great extent upon attention. We do not, for example, ordinarily feel our clothing, but when thought turns to the mat-ter it becomes very apparent. If garments do not fit well, the nerves are likely to take on some habit of twitching or other unnatural movement. Such habits in children are often due to this fact. For the same reason tickling sensations plague sleep away at night. That wise fool who calls himself a " business man " bolts his dinner in eight minutes, and tastes and feels nothing until dyspepsia makes taste and feeling perennial dominators of an unhappy existence. An-other fool consumes alcohol in winter for warmth and in summer for coolness ; the secret of its " beneficent " ministry is its paralyzing power over physical consciousness. In latter days this man feels heat and cold with the keenness of a skeleton veiled in the rotten gauze of ruined nerves. The orator who is absorbed in his flights regards not the busy fly upon his nose nor the physical pain which was insistent before his soul afire took mastery of sense. The epicure, every sense to the fore, lingers while he dines, and nourishes delighted boon fellowship with kindred spirits. When the orator has it before him to listen to another man's lucubrations, his fly becomes a Dante for torture, and his pains possess the power of a Spanish Inquisition. So, too, when Xantippe appears at the philosophers' board, the world must lose in Socratic wisdom.

To attend or not to attend is always with feeling an important question. The end nerves may be brought under large control of the Will. The soldier frequently fails to note that his arm has been shot off in the onslaught of a charge. Your tooth will cease aching if your house is afire dr your horse is running away with you. If feeling may be thus dissipated, it may, as well, be called in and controlled by the exercise of Will. Exercises in touch are therefore suggested for development of Will.


Exercise No. 1. Pass the ends of each finger of the right hand in turn very lightly over any flat uncovered surface. Try first a surface which is rough; then one which is smooth. Note the difference in "feel " between a rough surface and a smooth. This will re-quire a good deal of attention, for the difference is manifold. Repeat these exercises with several rough and smooth surfaces. Repeat as above with the fingers of the left hand. Note whether the feeling is greater with one hand than with the other. Now repeat the experiments with cloth of linen, cotton, woolen, silk. The " feel " of each material is peculiar. Compare, by act, the sense of touch as. given by one piece of cloth with that given by another. Continue these exercises with several pieces of cloth in pairs. Repeat with one hand, then with the other. What is the main " feel" of silk? Of cotton? Of woolen? Of linen? Have you any sensation other than touch with any of these kinds of cloth? If so, is it disagreeable? Then resolve to handle that variety of cloth until the aversion has been mastered. This can be done, as clerks in great department stores will testify. Repeat all the exercises here given every day for ten days, and on the tenth day note improvement in touch delicacy, kinds of sensations produced, etc.

Exercise No. 2. Practise touching lightly the surface of an uncovered table, with the separate fingers, one after the other, of each hand. Note the degree of steadiness with which this is done. Now repeat the experiment with strong pressure upon each finger of the hands separately applied. What is the difference in sensation between the light touch and the strong pressure? Repeat the exercise every day for ten days, with rest, and on the tenth day note improvement in discrimination.

Exercise No. 3. Grasp a small object, say, a paper-weight or a rubber ball, very lightly, just an instant, dropping it immediately. Then grasp it firmly, and instantly drop. Did you feel the object with each finger in the first instance? In the second? Make no mistake. What, if any, difference in sensation did you observe? This requires that the Will command great attention. Hence it cannot be done carelessly. Repeat every day for ten days, with rest, and on the tenth day note improvement in touch and power of discrimination and attention.

Exercise No. 4. Look at the back of either hand. Now twist the second finger toward you and cross the first finger behind it. While the fingers are so crossed, press the unsharpened end of a lead-pencil between the finger ends. Look sharp! Do you seem to feel one pencil or two? Shut the eyes and repeat the experiment. Again, is the sensation of one pencil or two? Is the deception stronger with eyes closed or open? When the pressure of the pencil between the crossed fingers is light, or when it is strong? Ex-plain the fact that there are apparently two pencils. Repeat the experiment with three pairs of fingers. Repeat every day for ten days, with rest, and on the tenth day note improvements in the various respects suggested.

The eyes being closed in the first experiment, you will probably thrust the pencil against the side of the third finger, which is now on the outside of the hand. Explain this little mistake.

Exercise No. 5. With eyes closed, place several objects, promiscuously and separated, upon a table. The eyes still being closed, move the right hand lightly over the objects and endeavor to estimate the several distances which separate them. Do not measure by length of hand or finger. Repeat the exercise with the left hand. Keep the question in mind : which hand is more nearly correct in judgment. Repeat every day for ten days, with rest, and on the tenth day note improvement.

Exercise No. 6. While your eyes are closed, ask a friend to present to you, so that you can examine by touch alone, but not by taking in your hand, several small objects, one after another. Now try to determine what the articles are. Examples : small onion, small potato, flower bulb, piece of dry putty, piece of amber, piece of wax; or some sugar, sand, ground pepper, salt, etc. Repeat every day for ten days, with rest, and on the tenth day note improvement.

Exercise No. 7. Procure small blocks of any material wood, iron round in shape, and of exactly the same size, but differing slightly in weight. Say two blocks weigh each i ounce, two I% ounces each, two 2 ounces each, and so on to a dozen, always having two blocks of the same weight. Let the weights be stamped or written on one side of the blocks only.

Place them promiscuously on a table, blank side up. Close the eyes and at random pick up one block and then a second, using the same hand. Determine by " feel " whether the weights so picked up are equal or not. Estimate the weights in each experiment. Repeat with the left hand. Repeat with both hands, used alternately. Repeat the experiment in all cases many times. Continue every day for ten days, with rest, and on the tenth day note improvement in judgment.

Exercise No. 8. Procure twenty-four small wooden models of crystals, cut from blocks about three inches square. Throw them promiscuously all at once upon a table. With eyes closed, take one in the hand and observe the mental picture that arises by the sense of touch. Count the faces, lines, angles. Now open the eyes and note the difference between this mental picture and the reality. This experiment will be difficult because you are not familiar with the forms of crystals, and judgment is left to touch alone. To assist, there-fore, look at the crystal models until you are able to shut the eyes and perceive with the eye of the mind the form just examined. Repeat every day for ten days, with rest, and on the tenth day note improvement in judgment.

Exercise No. 9. When you shake hands with people, note in their grasp any index of their character that may be suggested. Cultivate the gently-firm grasp. Instantly rebuke the bone-crusher; he has a vice which needs destruction. Is the touch of some hands disagreeable to you ? Note in what particulars. Be not ruled by that aversion, but seek such hands, and resolve to throw off the feeling. This may be useful to you in the " control of others." The effort to over-come an aversion always develops Will. Determine that nothing which you must touch more or less habitually shall control the sensation which it produces. Let this aversion be a type of all tyrannous aversions. Such an aversion means the inability of a small mind to divert its attention. The really large soul masters irritations and dislikes. But the guide and controller here is Will. Every aversion conquered signifies power of Will increased.


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