Saturday, September 11, 2010

HANDsomely done, TheraP

A Melange got me thinking, kept me thinking, and started me writing.  How much our language is enriched by metaphors related to hands.  The language itself full of terms which praise the hand: 

Handsome:  having an attractive, well-proportioned, and imposing appearance suggestive of health and strength; good-looking: a handsome man; a handsome woman....alternately considerable, ample, or liberal in amount: a handsome fortune. 
Handy:  within easy reach; conveniently available; accessible: The aspirins are handy...alternately  convenient or useful: A typewriter is a handy thing to have in the house 

Hands-down: easy: a hands-down victory. or certain: a book destined to be a hands-down bestseller.

And then there's Handshake:  a gripping and shaking of right hands by two individuals, as to symbolize greeting, congratulation, agreement, or farewell.    Hands don't seem to be necessary, which shows how pervasive the image is :   in computerspeak:. an exchange of predetermined signals between a computer and a peripheral device or another computer, made when a connection is initially established or at intervals during data transmission, in order to assure proper synchronization.
We applaud a person willing to get his hands dirty, i.e  to get closely involved in a difficult task. You have to get your hands dirty if you expect to get the gutters cleaned out.  (This phrase also has a less complimentary reading--but I won't dirty my hands typing it.

The Creator was a hand workerIn the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.

We love hand-crafted articles, and  generally assume their superiority to machine made items.  The Arts and Crafts Movement a little over a century ago rebelled against the machine and lauded the craftsman, only to find that "craftsman" furniture and accessories coule be imitated by machines. 

But as much as we give lip-service to hand work, Americans generally run from it like the plague.  It seems to have no part in the American Dream...certainly being a cabinet maker or a plumber isn't in the top ten responses to "what do you want to be when you grow up?".

The New York Times  published an article lamenting this back in  2009. 

When we praise people who do work that is straightforwardly useful, the praise often betrays an assumption that they had no other options. We idealize them as the salt of the earth and emphasize the sacrifice for others their work may entail. Such sacrifice does indeed occur — the hazards faced by a lineman restoring power during a storm come to mind. But what if such work answers as well to a basic human need of the one who does it? I take this to be the suggestion of Marge Piercy’s poem “To Be of Use,” which concludes with the lines “the pitcher longs for water to carry/and a person for work that is real.” Beneath our gratitude for the lineman may rest envy.

* * *
A gifted young person who chooses to become a mechanic rather than to accumulate academic credentials is viewed as eccentric, if not self-destructive. There is a pervasive anxiety among parents that there is only one track to success for their children. It runs through a series of gates controlled by prestigious institutions. Further, there is wide use of drugs to medicate boys, especially, against their natural tendency toward action, the better to “keep things on track.” I taught briefly in a public high school and would have loved to have set  up a Ritalin fogger in my classroom. It is a rare person, male or female, who is naturally inclined to sit still for 17 years in school, and then indefinitely at work.

I'm ordering the book from which this article was taken--I hope it is as well written as this piece is.  Tracy Kidder's book, House,  is the story of a contracting compuany of four, two of which had fled white collar work.  Jim Locke foreman of this particular Apple Corps job, so embarrassed his father by his handwork that he father had never visited one of his projects.  It looks like one can read House online now...if not, get a copy.  You'll be glad you did.

A while ago I wrote somethjing positive about labor unions someplace in that "other place"--I think it was in a comment, who knows?  Anyhow, I got a question in response "How many of those are members of the NRA?" as if that had anything to do with the dignity of their labor. 

Anyhow... that's what I wanted to say.  Go read TheraP if you haven't already.,  It's better than this.  But I offer candy with mine.

Quite coincidentally (if you believe in coincidences) I added two videos to my favorite's list on Youtube, both of which feature hands prominently.  Here they are...

First a little Victor Borge...great hands playing some pretty wonderful piano--If you know anyone who  is celibrating a birthday this would be a great gift.  Old hands, wrinkled, liver spotted, great wit driving them and great tunes resulting.

And then, featuring all kinds of hands old, and a great tune as well...Diana Ross

If both these leave you "untouched..."




This is delightful.

You got me thinking and I kind of shelved an idea to go on with this thread.

Hand to mouth. Handy Andy.

Handsome: good looking, a carriage...

I will bore you more later.

I like this. hahahaha

TheraP said...

Oh, Mike.... How can I begin to tell you how wonderful this is? How a little rif of mine has been ennobled (as Lux would say) by this beautiful post of yours! I am so touched in so many ways. All the ideas that came to you. The allusions. The images. The music. The video of hands. And the sheer joy of seeing how this little site you started has already blossomed!

I love gorgeous piano music about equally with wonderful singing. And I love musicians who can use humor in the music!

I actually did search for a photo of hands. I wanted a particular one. By Kathe Kollwitz. But I couldn't find it. I have it in a book here at home. Hands holding the head of a child. So gently. So exquisitely, that it has more poignancy than those fingers almost touching in Michelangelo's painting of God and Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

But even better than finding a photo of that drawing by Kollwitz was to read your post and watch these videos.

Thank you for this! From the bottom of my heart. In Icons a hand often points ever so gently toward the heart. Your hands, on the computer keyboard have touched my soul.

Anonymous said...

This Borge is delightful. So clever the way he plays authentically in the various composers' styles. It's an old musical joke amongst musicians, but isn't it lotsa fun?