Physical affection, in its non-sexual form, is one of the dearest and most powerful of activities. It is all the more precious for its gentleness and its generosity. Its power to sooth, to console, and to support us can sometimes move us to tears. Especially poignant, I think, is wordlessness of it, the silence in its gesture, and the stillness and calm it may bring to another.

Oft underrated, sometimes forgotten, costing nothing, and taking but a moment are all the more reason for it to be celebrated, appreciated and valued. It should be incorporated more freely and frequently into our lives and those we share it with. It ranges from the briefest and less intimate of gestures or a sustained and loving embrace. The physical intimacy that we share with those that we love or care for who trust us and invite such affection is a rare and special thing. This is because – for it to be genuine and affective – it must come from an unencumbered heart. In such moments we lay down our arms and set aside the stoic and professional mien of our public persona to come to the aid of another.

In a moment of weakness or pain it takes courage to reach out to another for a gesture of affection, one that will console and fortify us. In receiving and responding to the call the other is thereby disarmed in turn, and both are made more human again, if just for a while. The most precious moments of any day are made up of these gestures, for we cannot do without them. No instant of professional reward or personal success can replace the moments of physical affection that bind us to our own humanity. It is the simplest and warmest of gifts. It is a unique measure of our character that we are able to let down the guard of our defenses and our mask of competent seriousness. It reveals us to be all too human, and able to express it with a deftness and lightness of touch. Such a generosity of spirit, secure enough in itself to be so revealing of its tenderness, makes us greater, not weaker.

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