Thursday, September 16, 2010

Talk to the Hand

My latest crusade is to get my students to stop talking to their hands.

And staring at them. And caressing them. And waving their other hand over them.

So far, I've had exactly zero success.

If you don't know what I mean, just take a look around you. There are an awful lot of people talking to their hands. On the streets, in cars, at work, in restaurants, at ball games, at playgrounds, just about everywhere you go, there they are: people talking to their hands.

Apparently, there's something more fascinating about their own hands than the people, places, and things around them. Apparently, their hands contain mystical portals to an alternative realm of experience vastly more captivating and worthwhile than the realm you and I call reality.

In college, most students have the good graces, and the good sense, not to talk to their hands during class. (Some, however, can't resist, and I've had to humiliate them publicly as a result.) But the moment they walk out the classroom door, no matter what we were talking about inside--Descartes or Art Deco, World War II or Timbuktu, Thoreau or Theroux--and no matter what's going on in the wider world around them--a riot, an exhibit, a flower unfolding its petals--they're right back to talking to their hands.

It puzzles me. Never having had (or desired to have) anything in my hand worth talking to, I just can't imagine what they find so intoxicating there.

But I guess there must be something. My students, much less the whole world, certainly couldn't be wrong and I alone be right.

Still, I wonder. If we are to become a society of hand-talkers, what will become of other parts of our bodies (including our brains)? What will become of those places our bodies have traditionally found it convenient to inhabit (such as the planet earth)? What will become of friendship, love, compassion, conviction, intellectual stimulation, art, music, laughter, and poetry if all we want to do is talk to our hands?

Unless, of course, our hands start talking back. Now that would be nirvana.


  1. I'm sure there are other things they do with hands, but your point is well taken. Perhaps you should give lectures in emotional intelligence.

  2. I don't have anything intelligent (emotionally or otherwise) to say to this comment--I just think it's totally cool that someone reading the blog has the handle of my favorite animal!