Iâ€™ve been thinking about hands this week. I spent last week at a church conference, surrounded by ministers and other professionals. People with advanced degrees and vast experience, they were a delight to talk to, but in a week of handshakes I did not shake one hand that had a callus.
The week ended suddenly with an emergency phone call from home. One of my wife's relatives had died unexpectedly. Saddened, we packed up and scurried back to see what we could do to help and spent the next three days in the bosom of her family. This portion of my wife's relatives runs to construction workers, truck drivers and nurses. There were other professions represented, but almost all of them were the people who do the work of this world; jobs that keep us fed, sheltered, and cared for. I shook plenty of hands and found calluses on all of them.
It was an interesting experience, moving between two such diverse groups of people so quickly. The differences were stunning, and in ways, amusing. The preachers were intelligent, well educated and well traveled. They held reasoned positions and were quick to give positive affirmations. Most of them had led interesting lives and were able to talk entertainingly about their experiences. Yet they were surprisingly maladroit and naÃ¯ve, warm, but quick to leave conversations when a better conversational opportunity beckoned. I always felt a vague sense of anxiety, as if what I had to say better be fascinating or Iâ€™d be left standing alone. At meals they ate salads and fretted about ingredients.
The relatives didn't eat so many salads. By and large their traveling experience was limited to long haul truck driving, military posts around the world and an occasional youthful hitchhiking expedition. They didn't fret so much about food or ingredients; perhaps because a great deal of what they ate they raised or killed themselves. We ate grandly -- fresh caught fish, meatballs, homemade desserts, and a strawberry/rhubarb slush concoction that I scarfed down to great excess. There weren't nearly as many positive affirmations or validating statements, but when they hugged, you could feel their hearts beat.
The hand thing was on my mind when I started working on some homework for a writer's group I'm part of. The assignment was to describe in detail some portion of Michelangelo's David. I chose the hand, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, get on the internet and look up a picture.
The hand is large and powerful. Prominent veins twist up the wrist and out of sight. The fingers are curved, but not in repose, but more as if they are ready to grasp something, perhaps a stone or a sling.
It is not the hand of a king, but instead it is the hand of a farmer, a fisherman, a shepherd -- powerful but not yet used to wielding power.
The statue shows a real hand, brought forth from the marble by the hands of a genius. Michelangelo was a gifted scholar, an interpreter of Dante's poetry, a self-taught architect and engineer capable enough to design St. Peter's Basilica. He would have been popular in the highest levels of society, if he hadn't been grumpy and grimy. He had passion, drive, and ability.