THE SECRET HAND SHAKE, THE CARD WELL PLAYED, THE CONVERSATIONAL ALLUSION?
MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME EARLY TO WATCH WHAT PEOPLE DO WHEN THEY SPEAK. In fact, we used to walk together and she’d say —
“what do you think they’re saying?”
“See those people over there,
what are they doing,
what do you think?”
Of course, we’d share and offer theories.
“I think they’re talking about…I think they’re happy…I think they’re angry…”
But what that exploration—and conversations—really taught me is about hands, handedness and gesture. While someone’s talking, they wring, whirl figurations, draw in the air – point at things, point at each other — point as in piercing the earth. They make a point. And the other approach was thinking about hands as punctuational devices. They mark sentences, the draft the swirl of storytelling. I learned to watch people talking to me, and what are their hands doing while they’re talking to me.
Of course, other physical linguistics attach themselves to any conversing — are they leaning in, or leaning away? Is their head tilting in a querying cant? Or are they looking straight ahead? Standing erect, slouching, arms holding the body up? Akimbo? Hands pocketed or clasping — what?
But aside from the eyes and face, the hands tell much and these gestures have power to detail deep mysteries and storytelling. In the western sculptural traditions, the hands tell much.
Studying Renaissance hands, for example, there are hands that wind together as woven raconteurs of a personal telling, single hands that reference one direction of narration, or belie a deeper allegory of an archetypal theme – which could be: learn from me, go there, see there, attention please, look at me, see them, take this from me, gift or challenge, gauntlet or open hand, gestures tell stories.
I look at these — this simple gather and I think of query.
In my college years I studied Medieval art, architecture and culture. And I studied hands — what is that story here, what’s being said in this image of a person, and the careful placement of their hands?
A great deal,
it would seem.
Codes, secrecy, hidden meanings,
even alphabet mysticism.
In the meditation on the work of strategy, design and brand, what could that mean? It could mean—in the outreach of a brand, the tendrils of its expression—what are the gestures of its narration?
Could be attributes of personality — toughened character, touching, caring, warmth, retraction and recession, willingness and outreach, all in part of
the code, the brand coding of experientiality.
As many know,
I reach in, farther,
looking at the
framing of context and meaning.
What we do, what we say, and why.
That brings me to another deepening of exploration inside brand, design, meaning and memory.
Gesture in yet another context—the mūdra: a system of gestures.
When I was in college I studied Tibetan Buddhism, Himalayan iconography—what of all of these complex Gods, Goddesses, Demons and Angels, what are they, what are their signs and symbols?
Many and complex would be an understatement.
Traveling in Tibet and Bhutan, you can learn something, but there is plenty that is forgotten and much there to a lifetime of study.
And there I found hands.</a>
But they have gestures too.
What of these?
I was curious to learn more—to read them,
so I made a book of them.
And that, as in an earlier essay, is a way into
thinking design, journaling journey.
M Ū D R A
Each gesture, a notation.
Vajra Hasye Mudra
Surely, there are plenty of additional gestures for study. But core to my examination is the idea of the read — watching the hand.
To the allegory of the hand, the gesticulation of storytelling, the tell, the card well-played, the drafting notations of the staccato of manual punctuation, it comes down to this:
the hand speaks.
There is a reach-out, a handshake, a wave, jab a poke—a point — and as the digits realign, they share the nature of the narrative.
This is important!
Get out there.
What’s the point?
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Excellent post on mudras, the painted depictions were great. Thanks