Chapter 3: Hands Are Handy
On the most basic level, art is about joining ideas and actions, minds and hands. Insights come from both sides. Some insights come from intuition and make their gradual ‘descent’ into concepts and then, gradually, into realization. Other insights are born in action and make their journey in the opposite direction, eventually ‘ascending’ into new insights and wisdom.
The way things are, we favor the descending mode almost exclusively: intuition gives birth to concepts that, in turn, energizes emotions. Eventually, at the very end of the process, hands follow as obedient servants to this hierarchy of commands. Whole societies are structured around this order, as well as business and movements, while the wisdom of the hand is put aside.
I’ve earned a new appreciation for the ‘ascending’ principle where hands inform passion and ideas and concepts. Important insights are born when hands are engaged. In my work with communities, after people talk, we ask them to do something with their hands to sort things out. We place large sheets of paper on the tables, put markers in people’s hands, and ask them to sketch out the concepts they discussed. And conversations become more informing and productive. Concepts are clarified sooner. Agreements are negotiated faster. People become better problem solvers when the experience and wisdom of their hands compliment their minds.
Some of the happiest people I’ve known were people working with their hands. The moral is that hands are handy (ha-ha) for figuring things out and deepening our wisdom. As our existence becomes more virtual, hands may well lead us into new knowledge and insight. Artists will become guides in how societies can better balance the ‘descending’ and ‘ascending’ modes of gaining wisdom. Both are necessary.