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Across the Fence: Hands

The other day, I observed a little bird on the fence outside my kitchen window, combing its feathers with its little beak. And all of a sudden, I became aware of what a miracle we human beings have at hand in our hands. How much for granted we take them until they get hurt. And how much more we do with them than just hold tools. Like a comb to go through our hair.

What makes a hand a hand? First of all, it has multiple fingers; if not, it’s a paw. A human hand in its complete state has obviously five fingers and, all in all (thank you, Wikipedia!), 27 bones. The fingers contain the densest area of nerve endings, which makes for their excellent tactile skills. An average adult male hand weighs about a pound. Yes, I know, that is an odd fact, considering that you’d have to have a number of cut-off hands to weigh and compare. But just think that in using your hands, you are constantly moving two pounds of weight! Now, don’t get the idea that you are a weightlifter when you are moving your hands, or that you are actually doing sports!

A miracle of motoric skills … (Photo: Jeremy Yap at unsplash.com/)

What other facts about the human hand do we have? That there are tendons and muscles that make it extremely flexible. That a hand has four arches between the fingers, two of which (the one between the thumb and index finger, and the one between the index finger and middle finger) are dominant. That the thumb is dominating the other fingers because of its opposed folding direction. Well, you get the drift – a human hand is incredibly complex and well worth pondering about.

We use our hands for so many things we don’t even realize are NOT connected with gripping anything. Our fingers love to explore how surfaces feel – why else would we grab into a pet’s fur, touch the soft skin of a baby, or test whether a sweater is really as soft as it looks. To the blind fingers replace their eye sight – they discern the intricate little dots of Braille to read signage or even entire books.

To the deaf, hands replace the lack of hearing – sign language is an immense help to understand what is going on in the hearing world. Whereas lip-synching is only possible when you are able to see the lips – an infinite problem these days, as we are wearing masks in public places – sign language is visible from afar, far more precise, and easier to perceive than the movements of a mouth.

Hands are an important device for human relationships. (Photo: Liane Metzler at unsplash.com/)

Of course, since all our fingers have individually differently grooved skin at their tips, our hands are amazing proof of our identity. On the day of my immigration entry at SeaTac, I totally dumfounded one of the kind immigration officers. He took my right index finger’s print four times. Then he shook his head and said: “Your print is square. What are you doing with your finger?” Well, guess what – at German grammar schools you never learned typing in my days. So, I’m using mainly my index finger for typing. Which lends my finger print even an individual shape!

Another wonderful thing we can use our hands for is medical use. Just think of how we can feel where muscles are tense. We can lean on our hands, and our fingers won’t break, to soften up a spot, to rub it, to knead it. Skilled professionals can even set bones with their hands.
Hands are also a marvel when it comes to sound. They spend praise when we applaud somebody. We can snip our fingers to call somebody’s attention. We can clap, snip, rub, and use our hands as musical instruments in a group. Just watch this infinitely intriguing piece of music:

And watch the faces – they are filled with joy!

Let’s not forget about one of the most private uses of our hands. They are used for handing out caresses. They stroke somebody, touch somebody, replacing the words “I love you”. Not for nothing are you in somebody’s hands when you are very close to somebody – and hopefully you are in good hands. If you feel you are, you might ask them for their hand, as in a proposal – in this case the hand is a pars pro toto. Asking for somebody’s hand becomes asking for their heart, their entire body, their mind, and soul as a mate.

Now look at your hands again and think of the little bird and its beak. It doesn’t matter whether your hands are young or old, straight or crooked, healthy or maimed, or whether you think they are nice or ugly. They are miracles – and as such, they should never be taken for granted.

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