Saturday, January 01, 2011

Every component of thought

We give little credit to our hands in their having shaped our physical, social, cultural and political realities. It is in the nature of the hands that as they learn new things they require attention only at the first. As fingers and hands become skilled in the manipulation of physical reality, the need for conscious attention toward their movements diminishes, fades into the background of human consciousness.

I was at Grizzly in Springfield, Missouri last week to pick up a piece of equipment. My purchase required the attention of someone higher up in the office staff and as he input the data for my purchase into the computer terminal, his fingers moved faster than one could believe, each touching the keyboard accurately as fast as any pianist, and if one were to call attention to his movements, cutting the seamless cord between mind and hand it would have slowed the process. And so it is, that we do 10,000 or more discrete things each day requiring the use of our hands without giving them the attention they most assuredly deserve.

The most truly unfortunate thing is that we have thus designed the rest of life to ignore, denigrate, and diminish the role of the hands in learning and in life. I am reminded of a picture from years ago in the pages of National Geographic. It was of a Christian monk in his meticulously hand carved sanctuary. It was his life's work. It was his meditation. It was an altar to faith. Some have come to the erroneous conclusion that the body, and most specifically the hands are unclean, to be avoided, and that the work of the hands lowers us in some way, rather than providing the means through which we arise to our highest human potential and engage in our most significant and fulfilling service.

As described by Jacob Bronowski, "the hands are the cutting edge of the mind." In other words, they have given shape to every facet of human reality. All our intellectual concepts are derived from our having and using hands. The hands and brain co-evolved simultaneously as a behavioral system and it can be clearly and reasonably stated that the hands have given more shape to the mind than has been true in the reverse.

If we were to each attend consciously to the callings, the urgings, and the wonders of these hands, we could would see more clearly what we are neglecting in the education of our children. The hands, don't let them dangle!

Today I have been selecting photos for chapter 6 and getting them off to the editor. I feel blessed to have work that engages my hands, heart and intellect. At the beginnings of the year 2011, I wish the same for you, along with all the many blessings that the hands can bring to you and our human culture. Make, fix, create.

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