by S. John Thomas

Have you ever looked at your own hands? Closely; for more than a minute? Have you turned them around and looked at the wrinkles, the scars, the veins, the raw spots; are they identical? Have you looked at other hands for more than a minute? Have you held someone else’s hand in your own and looked at it, inquisitively? Hands so physically diverse, each with countless stories, and yet, each one functionally identical. Are my hands much different from hands of 10,000 years ago? 10,000 years of technological advances have created a world so different, from where survival was paramount at the primal level, versus today where survival is at the cognitive level. With all that is different our hands have remained the same. Receptors.

The hands of the lady next to me have the texture, the roughness, of stale bread; I know because I used my own finger tips to touch them. Contrast her coarseness to my own pink hands; if she touched my hands would she feel the warmness of fresh bread?

Adorned with rings and tattoos. Cuticles manicured. Nails cut, nails bit to the nubbins. Finger prints inked for criminals; finger print recognition for the most trusted.

Look at your hands, these receptors, these tools of a millennium. Close your eyes and feel burlap; burlap as it was felt 1000 years ago; burlap as it felt 3000 years ago. The burlap of my world, of trendy shops and expensive coffee bags, feels as it did on the back of a donkey or as found in Egyptian tombs. Close your eyes and feel the intertwined cords as a peasant and a king might have in ancient times. Feel the burlap; unchanged for generations and as your descendants will feel generations from now.

Fingers experience the roughness of a guitar string, of concrete or of a cheap thin carpet. Fingers experience the smoothness of silk, the softness of a woman’s thigh or the hair on the back of a man’s neck.

A baby’s bottom; a baby’s world. Does the baby feel the same things as I feel? Does it feel the softness of its own skin? Does if find the tender touch of its mother comforting? There is nothing as soft as baby’s skin, yet is it softer, yet again, with a dash of baby powder? With talcum powder or with lotion?

Moisture, warmth, smoothness. Safety pins, plush toys, hard toys, hard plastic, durable change tables, solid smooth crib walls.

Touch. Be gentle, be rough, the moment of contact is yours to control. What you touch, how you touch, if you touch.

A walk in the city, a walk in the park, a public bathroom, a market. Do you rub your hands over things? Do you caress physical objects? Or do you ensure you do not touch things and use the anti-bacterial soap at each entrance? Look at the objects at hand. Palpable? Physical? Tangible? Tactile? Reach out and touch them.

Feel the glass, warm enough to comfort or so cold it hurts. Close your eyes. Smooth on one side, flat and never ending, yet find the edge that is sharp enough to slice you open. Glass has been used for centuries upon centuries; you are not the first to press your fingers across its surface. You are not the first to consider its texture with fascination. You will not be the last.

Man-made items of the past decades are new sensations for our fingers to explore. Do we even consider that the feel of these are new to the human race? Feel shrink wrap, tetra boxes and nylon.

The hands of a farmer, of a mechanic, of a millwright, of a carpenter; I know four people with four fingers on one hand – do things feel different to them? I know people in academia whose hands and fingers have never felt the blow of a hammer or lost a nail because of a blunt instrument.

Touch this paper, feel the sensation. How does it compare to sweeping your finger across a tablet? Across a phone? A screen? A keyboard? Do you feel anything with a mouse? Does anyone even use a mouse anymore? Feel the paper with your hand; look at the newsprint on your fingertips. Look at the smudges left on doors; do you remember touching the door?

Feel the physical sensation of the pages as you turn them. Will we always have newspapers, magazines, books? Relish this moment, as you read the printed word – perhaps a beautiful but dying media. Your hands are your tools to understand the physical aspects of the earth around you. It can be sublime, it can be so intimate; touch. And it has been here forever; do not take it for granted.


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