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PRINT July/August 2020

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NOTHING SACRED

Saint Basil hand relic, ca. 379, Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. George, Venice.

WHILE WESTERN CULTURE celebrates sight, sound, taste, and smell in the visual arts, music, gastronomy, fragrance, and more, touch is the sole sense that has been largely relegated to the realm of the physical. The digital revolution reinforced the long-standing valorization of the intellectual over the material; fingers (the original digits) connect our bodies to the virtual machine, where zeroes and ones (the abstract digits composing the binary system) are thought to do all the work. It has taken a pandemic to reveal the extent to which humans thrive on touch and how imperative our social and intimate relations are. In this context, the veneration of relics—a two thousand-year-old practice in which the body (or its remnants) is believed to link a person to both the material world and the divine—gives us a perspective from which to reflect on the myriad possibilities our bodies

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