Monday, July 06, 2020

an early blog post

On Thursday, September 7, 2006, I began writing this blog. On the second day, I offered an invitation for personal investigation that went like this:

In order to understand the importance of the hands in learning, I can point you to a number of authorities. But first, I ask you to make a few personal observations. 

We have become a society reliant on experts. We hire people to tell us things about our lives, when we might find the greatest truths through simple and direct observation. For instance, we check our phones to learn the temperature, when we might step outside instead, feeling the chill or warmth of the air on our own skin. 

Here is a simple thing to help you to begin your own observatons. Pick up a long stick and hold it if front of you. Now close your eyes. You can feel in the tensions of your hand whether or not the stick is vertical, or slightly out of balance. You can adjust the position of your hand along it's length to bring it into balance. Centering one end in the palm of your hand you can feel or direct its motion, pointing it straight up or feel the weight of it when it moves away from dead balance. 

When you pick up a tool for the first time, whether it is a chisel or a pencil, the same dynamic principles are measured by the hand. The hand, measuring and adapting to those forces moves from the foreground of awareness to the background, disappearing from conscious thought as it learns the weight, form and movement of the object. In the use of a chisel, the hand itself can disappear from thought and consciousness to the degree that the only thing felt in the mind is the position and sharpness of the cutting edge. 

We take our hands for granted due to the extremely close integration between the hand and brain in the development of our consciousness and our awareness of the world around us. The use of the hands to assess the reality that surrounds us begins at the earliest possible age in our existence. 

As an excercise in the development of your own wisdom, I invite you to watch carefully today as your fingers engage the keyboard, as you write notes in pencil to a friend, as you pick up a bag of groceries, pull a book down from the shelf, or wipe the tear from the eye of a child. Hands that we take for granted are the key to being fully engaged in our lives, sensing and creating.

Dr. Frank Wilson, author of the 1999 book the Hand, How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture, shared the following in response to that first blog post:

"Great to see this site, in honor of whose youth I thought I'd say something about the earliest steps toward an enduring hand-mind partnership as I've seen them taken by my grand-daughter, now just 14 months old. From completely undifferentiated open/close movements of the whole hand and fist, she has gradually gained the ability to control the pinch grip of thumb/index finger (thanks to endless practice collecting Cheerios and then depositing them in her mouth). 
"Starting at about six months she was manipulating small objects bimanually. She became skilled at dropping things from her high chair. She next began tapping hard surfaces with spoons and blocks, testing their sounds. She also started exploring the surfaces of grampa's teeth with her fingertips. She started using her hands to pull herself up. She learned to use a spoon to maneuver peas into her mouth. She began to tear paper; then to pull books from bookshelves. She played with a springy doorstop to make noises. 
"By the age of 1 year she was gesturing -- pointing with her index finger, waving bye-bye, slapping both hands to the temples repeatedly with a wild facial expression as if to say: "Oh, what can I do???!! 
"She has fallen in love with buttons: buttons on musical toys, buttons on her mom's Blackberry, and now the buttons on the elevator in our building. 
"Two weeks ago she started walking, and immediately she approached other small children to pat them on the head, or touch their tummy, or gently push on the belly-button (as if expecting to see the kid's nose light up). 
"It's already a huge repertoire. What next????" – Dr. Frank Wilson, Friday, September 8, 2006

And so, what's next? We all have that same question at the tip of our lips. Will we technologize our way our of the huge mess we're in? Or will the hands provide a path forward. I bet on the hands.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning lifewise. 

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