Hands are my favorite physical attribute we humans possess.
A rather odd statement, one might reply, but allow me to explain. Although the creases and shadows surrounding an eye or the curve of a mouth can reveal a person’s emotional state, hands reveal something deeper. Within the folds of a palm and position of fingers, the life, the heart, and the desires of a person are hidden.
Hands are designed…
I sat in front of the old woman, a smile on my cheeks as I listened to her story. My eyes fell across her hands; they lay on her lap, folded, calm – like her own life. Veins laced her wrists and forearms, her skin porcelain, translucent, but somehow elegant.
I cradled the baby in my arms; it cood, fingers stretching out to tangle my hair. Soft, clenching hands dancing with my waves.
I watched the musician’s fingers sweep over the ivory fabric, folding the ebony ribbons with the snowy braid. His pinkie lingered on a pearl, before drifting back to the center. His slender fingers sewing the notes into the fabric of the wind.
A grin playing on his face, I watched as the sculptor seized the clump of clay and started kneading it. His palms were soon dappled in grey, the mark of his subject. His fingers smoothed, pricked, pinched, jerked, smoothed, pinched until the hint of a face appeared. Stony.
After hours of penning down stories, I reached for the door to leave. As I did this, I notice, with a smile, the streaks and dashes of ink painting my skin. My words had touched more than paper. 🙂
I grinned as I watched his tanned hands gather the tomatoes. Years of farm work had calloused, creased, and browned them. A missing fore-finger hinted at a former tragedy. Yet, his pearly grin more than made up for it.
The woman’s gnarled hands carried her grocery bags. Her shoulders hunched over, sad head bowed, she walked out. How many lonely trips had it taken to twist those fingers?
Hands are, intrinsically, expressive. As children, they were our primary means of communication. We used them to express our hunger, our frustration, our desire. As teenagers or adults, we use them to express these things and more. Our emotions, our determination, our pain, our desire breathe from our palms.
In sign language, in the delivery of speeches/orations, in designing buildings/architecture, in crafting poems, our hands express ideas and longings formed internally. Once, when I strode down my neighborhood street, I recited Walt Whitman to the air and moved my fingers to the words. This action of my gnarling, grasping, flying, fluttering my fingers brought the poems to life. They expressed them in a tangible, profound form. As a result, during plays/orations, my eyes are often drawn to the fingers of the actor/poet, for their actions add a layer of emotional tangibility to the performance.
Hands are relational. They are used to touch, reach, grasp, mold, shake, wave, hug. God formed us with his hands, and we stretch out our hands toward him – to know him. As I contemplate the action of stretching out one’s arms, I’m reminded of a line from The Coming, a poem by R.S. Thomas.
On a bare Hill a bare tree saddened The sky. Many People Held out their thin arms To it, as though waiting For a vanished April
We hold out our hands in awe and lament. Hands are paradoxical. They can heal, love, restore, aid, rescue. And yet, in the same breath, they can hurt. They can wrap around swords, seize women in violence, crush brothers with rocks, build idols. Like everything diminished with the fall, sin has cast a shadow on them.
On researching hands, I found that there exists a fascinating distinction between the right hand and the left hand. According to an article by the University of Michigan, the right hand symbolises “the rational, conscious and logical” and the left symbolises “weakness, decay, death.” Now this discovery prompted further contemplation and I arrived at three connections.
- In Muslim countries, people eat rice and various food with their right hand. Although the primary reason is hygiene-related (they use their left hand to wipe after urinating), I thought perhaps it also could be linked to the concept of the left hand’s “weakness.”
- In scripture, there are innumerable verses recounting the power and grandeur of God’s right hand. How he “upholds” us, how he sits at our “right hand,” how he “swears by his right hand,” how he rescues with his right hand.
- Finally, the eminent painting of The Creation of Adam by Michaelangelo exhibits God and Adam stretching out their hands toward each other. What captivates me about this work is the hands they use: God holds out his right hand, Adam holds out his left. Adam’s left hand, which symbolises “weakness, decay, death,” foreshadows the fall and human frailty. God’s right hand, reaching out to Adam, exhibits his power, strength, and desire to know Adam.
I will hold you as you held me, You gave be shelter you gave me safety. Said, 'hold gently what you wish to grow old with, like a sparrow in your hands that needs to fly. Hold gently what you wish to grow old with, don't close those hands.' Ivory fingers, porcelain haven, Hands that tamed me, that named and framed me. So these hands of mine that have learnt through time, To be a lover, a brother, a father or a friend, To try and let you fly, To circle other skies, To let you go, When you need to go, They'll be open, They'll be waiting.
What about you? What is your favorite physical attribute of a human being? What are your thoughts on the significance of hands?
Let me know in the comments. I love to hear your thoughts. 🙂