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Handing Over

Handy metaphors for the communication of intent (Part #1)

Abdication of responsibility: Disassociation and abandonment?
Proportion: Disproportion vs Appropriateness?
Transparency: Deceptiveness vs Openness?
Judgement and Culpability?
Involvement: Disengagement vs Engagement?
Justice: Unfairness vs Fairness?
Possession: Distribution vs Recuperation?
Application: Incompetence vs Competence?
Relationships: Conflict vs Care?
Transference and Transmission?
Mudras: an embodied pattern language for sustainability?
Finger signs and finger notation

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It is curious how many processes within the international community are associated with the hand, gestures of the hand, or associated metaphors. Especially problematic is the combination of:

  • hand-wringing and hand-washing (in response to humanitarian disasters)
  • hand-waving (to the multitudes) and glad handing (potential supporters)
  • hand-shaking (in confirmation of agreements there is no intention to keep)
  • heavy-handed responses to contestation
  • reliance on an invisible hand
  • failure to extend a helping hand
  • out-of-hand programmes (overbudget, out of control, etc)
  • policy-makers and figures of authority caught red-handed in abuse of power
  • empty-handed multitudes whose needs are not effectively addressed by summit gatherings

In discussing hand etymology, the Electronic Textbook of Hand Surgery notes that:

Words relating to hands are intertwined with an extraordinary number of phrases and descriptions in the English language. This makes it difficult to search the internet for hand related topics - a search for "hand" also retrieves handicap, handmade, handy, handbook, etc. The same ubiquitous multifaceted presence in English is true for each of these words: finger, thumb, nail, palm, hand, wrist, elbow.

The special interest of metaphorical use of the hand is the key role that it plays as an operational interface with reality (a perspective echoed in Hindu and Buddhist understandings of mudras). Metaphorically its uses explored below offer a unique sense of existential immediacy and intimacy (as familiar as the back of the hand) -- emulated to some degree by the widespread use of "virtual hands" in software applications. The experience of the subject, as controller and coordinator of the hands, is thereby centrally positioned in the moment.

This period is characterized by widespread conflict over geographical territory and zones of influence, as well as with respect to the territories of schools of thought and belief -- typically associated with various efforts to occupy the moral high ground. Of particular relevance is the tendency to grasp -- to "get one's hands on" -- the territory occupied by others, and then to be unable to hand it over, or hand it back, under appropriate circumstances. The action of the hands in grasping and failing to let go -- essential to the ability of humanity's ancestors to move through the trees -- offers an ideal simple model of the mental challenges of attachment and detachment necessary for humanity's ability to evolve any further..

llenges of attachment and detachment necessary for humanity's ability to evolve any further..

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