This pandemic is changing the way we relate and communicate. Now that we can meet our friends and go back to work one of the questions we ask ourselves is how to greet us. Among colleagues, customers, with acquaintances that we meet on the way. Greeting has always been the key to accessing the universe of others, whatever our context of action is.
In Italy, the issue was studied by the Luiss university and five other partner universities (La Sapienza, Roma Tre, Macerata, Bologna Fine Arts, Sassari Conservatory). Together, according to documented and in-depth analysis, they came up with a new way of getting in touch with us: the porcupine greeting.
Coronavirus has made us all porcupines. They must protect themselves to survive and at the same time they respect others by keeping the right distance. But the point is: net of this sacrosanct prudence, how can we preserve the human dimension? Human touch?
The greeting we are talking about refers to the fable of Schopenhauer’s porcupines of 1851, to which we owe the very philosophical concept of empathy. On a winter’s night, two porcupines huddle together to warp up with reciprocal warmth in order not to freeze. But soon they fell the thorns. And the pain forces them to break away. But the cold again assails them and again they return to approach, and then again the thorns, then cold, and so on, in a dance between two ailments (and two comforts). Until they get the right distance together.
The porcupine greeting at the time of Coronavirus has it that two people facing each other, at a safe distance, look each other in the eyes and, as for a toast, they bring forward the right arm and the palm of the hand and then again bring it closer to the heart.
Looking the person in the eye sets us free, it releases a form of recognition, warmth, and above all humanity. The porcupine greeting takes a few moments more than the touched elbow which has been resorted to in these days, and it is good, it increases awareness of the gesture we are making, its meaning, and its value. A new communication code that accompanies the claim I see you, I hear you, I’m here, I am porcupine to whom a YouTube tutorial and animation channel is dedicated.
According to Angelo Monoriti – professor of negotiation at Luiss, coordinator of the study (and author of the video #BEHUMANAGAIN #Iosonoporcospino) together with the psychotherapist Maria Rita Parsi – this new form of greeting is ultimately a sort of common mental activator. It was designed to resolve the sort of emotional dissonance that we all are experiencing for better or for worse between the urgency of protection (from contagion) and the need for humanity inherent in us. We will soon see on the streets how much it will be welcomed.