‘Behold the hands, how they promise, conjure, appeal, menace, pray, supplicate, refuse, beckon, interrogate, admire, confess, cringe, instruct, command, mock and what not besides, with a variation and multiplication of variation which makes the tongue envious.’ ― Michel de Montaigne
What would become of a fingerless pianist? His ferocious fingers – once before dangling from their palms like fleshy diamonds – would lie still and silent beside their grief-stricken owner. What would Lady Macbeth be without her blood-covered markers of murder? With no hands to embody her conscience, her shady descent into guilty insanity could never have commenced. Oh and yet, how kind Captain Hook could have been, had he only saved his hand from the crocodile of time!
They are a harpist’s greatest treasure and a thief’s greatest downfall; they may give power to the weak, speech to the deaf and sight to the blind. For Mohammad Ali, one fist can seal a legacy; for Napoleon, one hand gesture can kill a thousand soldiers, for Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong, one handshake can propagate a message of peace across North America and China; for Auschwitz captives, one point can determine survival or extinction; for Malcom X; one raise of the hand can calm a 4000 strong crowd of (Johnson Hinton) activists; for Voltaire, one finger clutch of a pen can make the inner-workings of his mind filter through time. Hands aid our every move, yet rarely do we take the time to reflect on their earthly significance.
‘I want to hold your hand’ chimed the Beatles jovially, jump starting their global popularity and critical acclaim; perhaps their musical triumph lies simply in catchy riffs and melodic harmonies; yet maybe it is also their immortalising through music, of man’s need for touch and the universal timeless power of the human hand, to which we must attribute the song’s source of success. Hands – with their highly sought after opposable thumbs – are what make us human, they enable us to create and destroy, to convey and conceal; how we use them defines who we are as much it defines the world in which we live.
World peace, or world domination? How will you use your hands? How will they shape your life and the world that encircles you?
‘One hand I extend into myself, the other toward others.’ ― Dejan Stojanovic, The Shape
‘Why, I’ve been all over the world, I tell you, and fairly loafed and lolled in every conceivable sort of ease and luxury, but the Soul of me—the wild, restless, breathless, discontented soul of me—never sat down before in all its life—I say, until my frightened hand cuddled into his broken one.’ ― Eleanor Hallowell Abbott, The Indiscreet Letter
‘He had strong, steady hands, and I could tell from looking at them there was little he couldn’t do. Mossy always said you could tell everything you needed to know about a man from his hands. Some hands, she told me, were leaving hands. They were the wandering sort that slipped into places they shouldn’t, and they would wander right off again because those hands just couldn’t stay still. Some hands were worthless hands, fit only to hold a drink or flick ash from a cigar, and some were punishing hands that hit hard and didn’t leave a mark and those were the ones you never stayed to see twice. But the best hands were knowing hands, Mossy told me with a slow smile. Knowing hands were capable; they could soothe a horse or woman. They could take things apart — including your heart — and put them back together better than before. Knowing hands were rare, but if you found them, they were worth holding, at least for a little while.’ ― Deanna Raybourn, A Spear of Summer Grass