Our hands: a perpetual miracle

Have you ever really looked at your hands?  If so, then you must have marvelled at the intricate mechanism of bone, muscle and sinew!  Not to mention the blood vessels and metatarsals working non-stop. Many, many years ago, one of our funny-looking ancestors crept onto the shore and survived, by learning to use his fins for crawling, creeping and gripping.

Time passed, evolution continued, and this creature learnt to survive on land; his fins became his hands and his tail, his legs.  Yes, I can hear many of you saying this is debatable, but hear me out.  A human embryo in his mother’s womb, goes through these same evolution-steps.  Around the 4th week millions of cells are hastening their growth in the little tadpole-like creature.  From the neck part, a pair of little bosses sprout, rapidly elongating into three segments. 

The outer parts become paddle-shaped and 5 lobes appear on the edges.  Muscles, tendons and nerve fibres begin to develop. About the 3rd month, the little flapper’s miniature fingers begin to move and flex, and there is the human hand!  When the whole little mannikin leaves his “private retreat” his small, almost miniature fingers, clutch and grab with amazing strength.  From now onwards, these human hands that is directed by the brain, will prove how we differ from many other inhabitants on earth.

Looking a bit deeper, have you ever thought of what a handshake means, except from being used as a form of greeting?  It doesn’t last long, but can express “please to meet you,” “hallo,” “good bye,” and so on.  A flabby handclasp / handshake can tell you that a person is ineffectual and nervous; a firm, warm clasp tells you that a person is friendly, sympathetic and has a good self-image.  Our hands can be used to hold a baby or small animal tenderly, or it can be used to express anger and rage in a closed fist.  In prayer our hands express gratitude and blessings, in begging the hands express greed and want.

There is a saying “we talk with our hands.”  Some people like to use their hands whilst talking.  As an extension of our arms, our hands talk when we embrace a loved one, when we wave goodbye and when we are playing sports, making music, creating something (art or cooking), with ease and precision!

Note to self: when you are upset with your child, spouse, or whoever, just remember: you might be pointing a finger at them while you “blow off steam,” but the other 4 fingers are all pointing back at you! Energy goes out, but also comes back!

When you want to grasp or touch something, for example, an array of muscles, joints and tendons, all the way from the shoulder to the fingertips, are brought into use.  To eat a spoonful of pudding involves about 30 joints and 50 muscles; if your 7th cervical vertebrae is out of alignment, then your 4th and 5th fingers are numb and “useless.”

Think of your thumb – have you ever tried writing, eating or working without using it? The thumb is an important part of our hands and operated in a completely different way than the other four fingers.  It can work together with any of the other fingers, yet the 4 fingers are lost, as it were, without the thumb.  For some people, the thumb symbolizes willpower and logic; for others it is a sign of extravagance, especially if the thumb curves back at the waist.  The thumb is a very strong limb.  Years ago, a child of about a year old, crawled underneath a car and was found, unharmed, miles further just by clutching on!

It can take a long time for someone who has lost his / her thumb, to get used to using only the other four fingers.  Our thumbs help us to grab onto something when we are about to fall, it helps us carry heavy things, it keeps us from spilling our water or coffee when we carry a full mug or jug, and so many other, everyday tasks.

The flexibility of the hand’s skin is another extraordinary thing.  Whether you are squeezing a ball, playing the piano, knitting a scarf or working in the garden, one would think that this tightening of the skin and friction of the bones as the hands move, would wear away the joints.  Yet it doesn’t, because the fat and muscle underneath the skin, protects these vital tendons.

Fingertips also reveal a lot – it tells you when something is too hot or cold, and it identifies the criminal on the basis of fingerprints.  Nobody in the whole world has the exact same fingerprints.  Another interesting fact is that our fingers are made up of bloodless joints, therefore our fingers feel the winter cold more than our face (where the muscles are filled with blood to keep it glowing and warm).

We often forget to take care of our hands; we forget that we need to stretch the hands and wrists in the same way we would the other parts of our body; yet we use our hands almost all day.  We also forget that our hands tell a story, that the way we use them when we communicate can say much more than the spoken word, and that it is our connection, as it were, to our brain and our thoughts.

In the Eastern cultures the people greet each other with palms joined.  It signifies the conjunction between positive and negative currents within everyone, as well as saluting / acknowledging the Divinity / Creator within everyone.  “I am you and you are me,” the Individual Spirit joining the Universal Spirit, the Oneness in many, Omnipresence, Universality; past and future are present.

In Indian dances hands and fingers are used extensively to express meanings.  In Yoga, when doing the Asanas, the hands are also used in different positions.  During breathing-exercises and meditation, different hand and finger-positions are used.

There is one thing to remember:  letting go of what is / what was!  Nothing can be achieved until we learn to let go completely.  When you grasp something and you hold on too tightly, you kill it, so to speak.  But when you open your hands slightly and you relax your grip, it can grow.  When you tell someone to “let go” it is not just a physical action, but also underlines the importance of letting go emotionally and psychologically as well.

Therefore, be grateful that you have arms, hands and fingers, that are healthy and usable.  They are not just used to physically do things, but also to grasp ideas, to reach out in love, to grasp reality, and to help us to move forward and let go of what was.

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