Written by Prof. Simon Kay
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The human hand is constantly on view, like the face, and each serves a wide variety of functions through movement and through sensing. Each conveys thoughts and emotions, is capable of examining, sensing, grasping in highly special ways, and each has a role in loving, caring and sex.
Each offers information both passively and actively about us, and is capable of communicating silently quite complex information. Each has (probably consequently) a particular quality of beauty and significance for use he hand however has remarkable abilities in manipulation and a repertoire of movement that allows power and grace.
All of its parts are elegantly adapted to individual function and to the coherent concert of movement that makes it so beautiful. Whether considering the pulp, the nail, the articulations, the palmar skin contrasting with other skin, the act of opposition, or simply the changes of ageing, each hand is unique to each human, as distinct (forensically) as DNA and often customised perhaps with jewels, or varnish or tattoos.
The hand played an enabling part in our evolution and, credibly, in the evolution of language and thought, as the fossil record shows. There is a deep atavistic understanding of the essential humanness of a hand, and that they work in partnership with their opposite member, completing the circle of competence and manipulation and embracing that is formed by the upper limbs and body.
Despite these qualities we usually take our hands for granted, accepting them as simple mechanical adjuncts and failing to realise that their health both reflects our own health and influences it also. Only when function is lost (arthritis, nerve disease such as tremor or loss of feeling) or congenital deformity do we realise the value that is missing, and no more so than in the loss of part or all of one or both hands. This lies behind the ethical contention that hand loss is a serious impairment not just of ability but of personal completeness that leaves sufferers at risk of life-shortening behavioral change.”