The Bliss of a Kiss

In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a great deal longer.” Absolutely, Mr. Holmes! In fact, that echo can last for weeks on end.
V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt

While the scientific definition takes the sexiness out of it, isn’t it amazing that the anatomical juxtaposition of  two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction brings such pleasure? Moreover, reveals emotions without words and on occasion, allows reality to slap us in the face.

Regardless of exactly how people got the idea to kiss or what they mean when they do it, anthropologists are pretty sure that people started kissing thousands of years ago.

Four Vedic Sanskrit texts, written in India around 1500 B.C., appear to describe people kissing. This doesn't mean that people didn't kiss before then, and it doesn't mean that the people of India were the first to kiss. Artists and writers may have just considered kissing too private to depict in art or literature.

After its first mention in writing, kissing didn't appear much in art or literature for a few hundred years. The world’s longest epic poem Mahabharata describes kissing on the lips as a sign of affection. The Mahabharata was passed down orally for several hundred years before being written down and standardized around 350 A.D. A feat in itself, as it contains 1.8 million words in total, roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and Odyssey combined. The Vatsyayana Kamasutram, or Kama Sutra, also describes a variety of kisses.

Some anthropologists believe that kissing is a learned cultural behavior and theorize that the Greeks learned about it when Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 B.C., but many other anthropologists disagree and believe kissing was part of courtship rituals for centuries before it was ever recorded.

Kissing was quite popular during the Roman Empire and Romans used kisses to greet friends and family members. Citizens kissed their rulers' hands. The Romans had three different categories for kissing: Osculum was a kiss on the cheek; Basium was a kiss on the lips; Savolium was a deep kiss. In Rome, it was tradition that couples announce their wedding by kissing passionately in front of a group of people, including family. Today modern couples kiss at the end of wedding ceremonies.

The Romans also sealed letters and documents with a kiss and so the term "sealed with a kiss" comes as no surprise. Kisses were used like handshakes to seal legal and business agreements and even during political campaigns.

The British took it one step further with "kisses for votes" scandals in the 18th century which led some candidates to kissing only the very young and very old.

Most cultures around the world kiss today, but there are differing views on the appropriateness of kissing.

Personally, I’ve never believed in love at first sight. A kiss? Well - like the Romans - I believe a kiss can seal the deal.


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Bonnie Morét is an award-winning photographer recognized by The Georgia Council of the Arts as "an exceptional representation of contemporary Georgia art work." Her photography is featured on Georgia Public Broadcast's Georgia Traveler. Her exhibitions include Fifth Annual Exposure Awards at Musee du Louvre in Paris, France, Art Takes Miami at Scope Art during Art Basel Miami, Metro Montage XIII at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, World of Water at the Georgia Aquarium, Open Walls at Black Box Gallery in Portland, Oregon, Wholly Georgia: A Look at the Effects of Southern Religious Culture, sponsored by the Art History League and Georgia State University, at Mint Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, 6x6 at the Rochester Contemporary Arts Center in Rochester, New York, @Phonography: Dialogue in the Wireless Age, at 3 Ring Circus in New Orleans, Louisiana, and About Lands and Lives of the Civil War at the 6th Cavalry Museum in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. Her photography appears in Modern Luxury/The Atlantan, Jezebel Magazine, and hangs in the executive offices at the Georgia State Capitol as part of the Art of Georgia exhibit. Corporate clients include Atlanta Ballet, Atlanta History Center, Chanel Cosmetics, Christian Dior Cosmetics, Sharp Mountain Vineyards, PM Realty Group, Granite Properties, Road Atlanta, Patrón Tequila, StubHub, CBM Records and The Washington Auto Show.