Friday, September 04, 2009

The hands as a metaphor: understanding and control:

The blog has taken on great depth over time, it now having over 1800 posts. So I need to mine and sift to make greater sense of it all for my readers. I hope to highlight some earlier posts and bring the better to fresh attention.

I have been thinking about the way metaphor can be used to explore the structure of human consciousness as illustrated by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in Metaphors we Live By. The following is from my blog post of Tuesday, July 10, 2007.
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 we are missing a view of fundamental reality, we say we are out of touch. When we are likely to say something, truthful, but possibly embarrassing, our mothers tell us to sit on our hands. This last one describes the interesting relationship between the hands and speech. Stifle the hands and the mouth is mute, but the body, its weight squirming on restrained hands, hints of things ready to pop from the mouths of babes. So which came first? The intelligent use of the hands? I would say so, hands down. If the hands have the power to restrain speech, we know where they fit the hierarchy in relation to the brain.

If you want to control someone, and make them mute, take control of their use of their hands... If I thought world leaders were smart enough to understand this, I would be a conspiracy theorist and be looking at the removal of the hands from modern education as the means of our deliberate enslavement.

Educators like Froebel, Otto Salomon, and Felix Adler made it quite clear that the education of the hands was a direct means of social liberation, not just for the lower classes, but for all. It wasn't a conspiracy. They were very clear about their objectives. Froebel's kindergartens were shut down for a time by the Kaiser. Could it be that the Kaiser and rulers of other nations had not yet figured out how to disguise their intentions?
There are at this point countless confirmations of the fact that all human expressions of intelligence both in art/craft and the written/spoken word are rooted in the hands. One is the insight that the study of metaphor provides. Another is Susan Goldin-Meadow's study of gesture at the University of Chicago. Still another is the baby signs movement in which children are being taught sign language first, before speech and realizing a major advancement in verbal skills as a result.

What we do at the Clear Spring School can serve as an example for much needed change.


  1. thanks for your great blog. I found it by googling 'hand as metaphor', to use the hand as an image to reflect the structure of consciousness: four levels - data, intelligence, reason, decision: each opened out by inquiry. So four fingers, each in touch with the thumb. To grasp things fully, such as in a handshake, all fingers and thumb work together in harmony. So our minds, if inquiry, data, intelligence, reason and responsible decision work together, we are living well. As a result of seeing yours, I decided to set up my own to explore the nature of insight.

  2. The hands have literally shaped every facet of earthly reality. And our entire intellectual framework is derived from having hands.

  3. I would need to understand what you mean by 'our entire intellectual framework', for it is clear that hands mould and shape material reality guided by the attentiveness of sense, by intellect which grasps possibilities, by reason which establishes the feasibility of whatever possibilities come to mind and by responsible choice in moving the hand. Are we into a chicken and egg discussion: Which comes first?

  4. Hand and brain co-evolved as a system. The hands provide the structure for intellect.

    The eye perceives, the hands test the truth of perception.

    The hand is the cutting edge of the mind--Bronowski

  5. Thanks Doug. Do you have a view as to where "John" is - and "Doug" too - in your schema of hands and intellect?

  6. If I properly understand your question, yes. Definition of self is illusion. So where's John or where's Doug would require a broad view of things.

  7. I found your blog the same way as John Little commenter....

    Fascinating eloquent account of the hands, we do take the handiwork of the "creator' for granted.