Stop right now. Lift up your hands and inspect them carefully. What story do they tell? For some of us with more than a few years behind us, they may be scarred, twisted with arthritis or calloused from years of work. While for others, they may be beautiful, well-manicured and happy appendages. Hands are essential. They are a critical connection to others, to our environment, to our success, to our pleasure--to our survival! For a moment, imagine your life without your hands! If you are like me, contemplating this floods one’s thoughts with compassion for those, who for whatever reason, have lost the use of their hands.
Hands also present us with a wonderful world of metaphor, deeply embedded within our interactions, language and communications. The physical nerve endings in our hands send signals to our brains as we connect directly with the material world around us. This is a very visceral experience that gets us as close to the 'real' world as perhaps we can. They tell us so much--alerting us to hot and cold, different texture, warning signs, and even acceptance or rejection. We use them to grip, to console and comfort, to help, to defend, to fight, to protect and to accomplish. Everything that we do with our hands becomes metaphorically transformed into everyday conversation and dialogue.
Think about it, when things get out of control, we say they are "out of hand." When we want to take control, we try to "get a grip" or "get a handle" on things. When one is missing a view of fundamental reality, we say they are "out of touch." When we want to avoid saying something truthful, but possibly embarrassing, we have been taught to "sit on our hands." Every one of these phrases is easily identifiable based on our observations of the ongoing use of Hands.
Emotions and touch are closely connected as we experience emotion through bodily sensation and the metaphor of touch is closely connected with physical feeling. "That feels like a good idea", "I want to reach out to...", and "It was hands-down a bad experience."
As we hold physical things, so also we hold ideas and concepts. Holding and grasping is an important way of bonding, and as we hold something tight, we connect it into our own identity. "She held the idea in the palm of her hand", "The belief was strongly held.", "Hold onto that thought for a minute." Other forms of touch, although lighter than a grasp, also indicate some form of connection--"He has a very hands-on approach.”, "She touched many of the people with her moving speech." It goes without saying, hand-related metaphors could be an endless discussion. "I have to hand it to you, you have been very patient so far!", "Thumbs up to you."
Hands are often taken for granted. I mean, how many of you have had a serious thought storm, ruminating about hands! What a remarkable gift they are, how they work, and what a tragedy it would be not to have full access to these incredible members of our bodies. But there is a bigger metaphorical picture that I would like to expound upon – hands can be instruments of good and evil!
I have always held onto the proverb, "the hands of the lazy produce poverty, but the hands of the diligent brings wealth”--this is a great axiom for living. Another similar proverb, "the hands of the innocent are clean, but the hands of the wicked are filthy and wretched." The character of each of our lives can be described by the use of our hands!
What are our hands consumed by? Are they self-serving or other serving? Are they pulling people in for care and comfort, or are they pushing others away with repulsion or disdain? Are we proud of what our hands represent, or ashamed? One of my favorite quotes is, "A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal." Hands that strive to do good will always reap the rewards of a satisfied mind and a heart of joy.
Albert Einstein put it this way, "The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." Our hands speak of our labors, values, energies, actions and activities. Committing our hands to the pursuit of justice, the execution of mercy, acts of compassion and kindness, is how we can overcome evil. It is a conscientious effort, a lifestyle choice; a life-changing choice! Lazy, self-centered hands are "friends of the devil," allowing evil, corruption and loathsome deeds to prevail and go unchecked.
Think how we use our hands, both physically and metaphorically. If somebody does not like the way you are driving, they offer you an obscene hand gesture. You do a good job, you get a thumbs up. We protest with a raised fist, and we cheer on a wonderful performance with exuberant clapping. Some of us even talk with our hands, flailing them around as if they help us get our points across. Hands are important, and how we use them is very revealing of the human character.
So what do your hands say about you? Are they hands of hope, or hands of hate? Are they welcoming hands, or do they push people away? Are they nurturing hands, or are they destructive hands? Are they hands of encouragement, or are they hands of anger? Are they hands of comfort and acceptance, or are they hands of defiance and rejection? Are they hands of hard work, or pampered, laziness?
As I have contemplated Hands, and all that they represent, I am struck by the stark polarization in what they represent – there is no gray area, only positives and negatives. At this point, I am so tempted to throw out a bunch of silly "hand" puns, but I will restrain. Instead, I will end where I started--stop right now. Now, lift up your hands and inspect them carefully. What story do they tell?