This last Burning Man I sliced my finger deeply and had to get eight stitches. Interesting enough, cutting my finger has turned out to be a “deeply” rewarding lesson…
I have observed that the human finger is made up of many layers and that each progressive layer, as you go deeper, is more sensitive. As the finger heals, part of the healing involved is the gradual reduction of sensitivity. In fact, at some point the finger looks almost entirely healed but is still much more sensitive than the other fingers. It continues to lose sensitivity as part of the healing process as the skin thickens to protect against the environment.
I am struck by the likely similarity to human beings in general. We are all so sensitive. Our hearts are so tender. But we have so many layers of armor. Healing, for many people today, is a process of reducing sensitivity because the outside world is so harsh. It’s hard to be exposed because it would be too much for our sensitive hearts. And so, our natural survival mechanism is to develop a thick skin. Much like the skin on our fingers we can’t really shed that skin but we can train our skin to be more sensitive.
A few months ago a friend of mine was teaching me how to sharpen a knife using a stone. He had his fancy Japanese blades and was showing me how you shave one side of the blade against the stone and then at some point this produces an overhang. Then you flip the blade, shave off the overhang and you’re done. You can’t actually see the overhang, you have to feel it because it’s so fine. He could feel it easily. I couldn’t feel it at all. We tried over and over, and I maybe barely felt it at the end. Maybe not.
My take away at the time was that that was a practiced sensitivity. With practice I could train myself to feel that overhang with my finger just like him. Maybe if I tried sharpening that blade right now with my healing finger I could be more sensitive to the overhang. I could certainly learn how to feel it with my regular fingers with enough practice.
My point is that emotional sensitivity is much the same. The way we are with other people, the way we perceive the world, the way we are with ourselves. We have so many layers to work through, but the sensory input is there. We just have to cultivate a sensitivity. Hopefully without having to slice ourselves in half.