Remember the last time you hugged?
Not a fleeting, passing salutary “Ahleeeen!!” hug, but a real hug. The kind of hug that happens when you wish you could take parts of that person with you, in you. The kind of hug you give when you want to take away her pain, and give her your strength.
The kind of hug that lasts for the length of a deep breath, where you inhale each other’s warmth and aromas. (Smell is identity. Smell is the strongest of memories.) And you don’t gag; because you are compassionate with that person (enough to hug him), and you understand why he stinks like that.
And you’d easily forgive him for it too.
Physically speaking, even without the affection, touch intensifies whatever emotion is held between the touchers. Ever seen what physical contact does to angry cats growling? Or an intense domestic argument?
Now, color that touch with a little bit of affection, and it becomes a powerful medicine. I know this from experience; and healers (across the cultures) swear by it. Commercial touch (whether from doctors, chiropractors or prostitutes) can never compete with a the inherent powers of a single, loving caress from a mother, or a teacher, or a little brother.
Touch is also one of the ways that people develop their mindreading and empathetic abilities. It’s not occult; we do have biologic explanations for it. Anyone, who cares enough to hug you, could see through you. Could see your heart. You know those illogical and ungrounded thoughts that come up from the instant you release a hug? If you learn to critically trust them, they can be frighteningly accurate.
Otherwise, how do wives ALWAYS know when their husbands are keeping secrets, no matter how trivial or innocent? And why do we never succeed lying to our parents?
Caliph Umar bin Al.Khattab once consulted his married daughter, on the reasonable length of time his soldiers can be apart from their wives. The daughter, Safiyya (was it?) said: 40 Days.
I think, beside the obvious husband-and-wife thing, “40 days” is also how long we can stay sane without hugs.
If you think that's cool, do yourself a favor and give someone a big, hearty, bear hug today. And smell them.
[Curious gender note: You see how easier it is or women to exchange hugs with each other, and how hard it is for men? You see why adult men don’t function right without wives? Unmarried men have lesser chances to exchange hugs. And their souls dry up.]
UPDATE: Here's someone who took hugging to the extremes. 7777 Hugs in 24 Hours.