They say that the eyes are the windows to a person’s soul. When we look deeply into another living creature’s eyes (and, that includes animals) we see the full range of emotion that all sentient beings are capable of of. We can sense happiness, fear, anger, joy, intelligence, ignorance, assurance, doubt, wisdom, love, empathy, sorrow, greed, desire, remorse, despair, ecstasy, warmth, grief, and virtually every other feeling that makes one, well, ALIVE. When we are happy, our eyes shine. And, when we are without inner life, that is also reflected. In fact, when the eyes lack the expression of these emotions we often refer to them as dead — literally. So, when we really want to know what someone is feeling, we look deeply into their eyes to get our answer.
But, there is another portal into a person’s soul — our hands. We can tell a lot about someone by simply observing the relative condition of their hands. Big, rough, gnarly ones, their skin often stained by the jobs they preform, are logically associated with working people. Those with long, slender fingers, and smooth skin are usually referred to as having delicate hands and indicate a lifestyle that does not require much physical labor. Most athletes have huge hands and, depending on their sport, carry the marks of their profession (have you ever seen a baseball catcher’s hands?). A piano player’s hands generally feature long fingers enabling them to reach the keys more easily. We often adorn them with rings and bracelets making their own statement. Others, like me, prefer projecting a simpler image by wearing nothing on their hands. But, we do make a statement with how they look, and, how we use them.
Whenever we meet someone, a new friend or old, in addition to looking them in the eyes, we extend our hand to meet theirs in a gesture of peace and acceptance. In essence, it becomes an indicator of our intentions.
In Western culture we present ourselves through a firm and hardy handshake. It is believed that we convey a sense of our self-worth by clutching another person’s hand with authority and conviction. Extending our hand helps to provide a clue to our inner life. And, we expect the same from them. We often judge that person by the enthusiasm in which our gesture is received and returned. The strength in our hand is perceived as a proxy for the fortitude in our souls. In a sense, it sends the message; we are worthy. By contrast, a weak handshake is often perceived to indicate a feeble personality.
And, our hands come in not only a huge variety of sizes, shapes, and conditions, they also have a range of abilities to convey a vast spectrum of emotions, too — as sublime as a Michelangelo brushstroke or as brutal as a Mike Tyson uppercut. We can make a fist with them and punch someone in the nose. But, we can also use them to gently stroke someones hair or handle a fine paint brush and create a masterpiece.
And, the message sent is so important that it can effect the future of our relationships.
When I was shooting a documentary in China in the early ‘90’s, I noticed that whenever I attempted to shake a person’s hand there, I received the proverbial dead fish. They would barely touch my hand, much less grab it. It was so obvious to me that I asked our translator if that it was, indeed, being done deliberately. Her answer was in the affirmative. She explained that in their culture giving up that much of oneself in an initial meeting was way to aggressive. It’s a trust that can only be learned over the course of time.
Our hands can also provide a link to our ancestors. How many of us have said, they have the same hands as their mother or father? I know that when I look at mine, I see the same general shape and idiosyncrasies of my father’s. I’m sure that others in my family feel the same way.
So, the eyes may indeed by the windows to the soul but, assuredly, our hands may be the door.