Human Hands

4 million years ago, an ape reached to grab a succulent low-hanging banana from the only banana tree for miles in a sea of golden grassed savannah. The beauty it saw as its eyes breached the surface of the tall grass would sear visions of something greater in its mind forever – and it never walked on its fists again.

With fists unclenched, the bipedal proto-Sapien roamed the wilds with its feet on the ground and eyes on the horizon, blankly repeating the same cycle of life for many eons to come. Generation after generation they ate, slept, walked, ran, raped, murdered, cried, loved… survived. Another Sapien 2 million years ago decided they’d use their unclenched fists to bang two stones together, and lo and behold, little sparkles of light sprang forth into the air, disappearing just as quickly as they came. The Sapien lets out a grunt. They had seen similar sparks before, when shiny light spears from the sky had collided with a desolate tree a few spans ago. A light spear went off in their mind. They gathered sticks and grass as dry as they could find them, created a pile and went to retrieve the stones. Once. Twice. Thrice the rocks banged against each other, and the sparks came just as before. Four. Five. Six. A sparkle settles into the grass, and the grass begins smoking. Their eyes widen. Seven. Eight. Nine. Their gut tells them to blow on the sparks. They had seen how the wind carries the orange seas of heat from place to place, so they create a small circle of rocks to contain this volatile force. Their companion crawls out of their rocky shelter to watch, and their shiny eyes pop out of their dirt encrusted features as they marvel at the spectacle before them. They both realized they were not cold anymore, and they sat together against the rock, watching the warm goddess dance.

Eons pass and generations come and go, building atop the shoulders of their forgotten ancestors. Realizations of uses for fire and smashing rocks together put the hominids in a position where they could get more nutrition from their food, create more effective shelter, and focus on hunting and gathering more efficiently. None remembered their grandparents. None remembered what it was like when their fists were clenched, when their backs were arched, when they never looked to the sky. Around 100,000 years ago, hominids even began to create art, jewelry, clothing, tools, and weapons with their unclenched fists. They put their palms to the sky in wonder. They put their palms to the ground in thanks. They put their palms together in prayer. They put their hands on their crude axes and spears to feed the ones they cared about, and demolish the ones who’d see them dead. They used their hands to continue to eat, sleep, walk, run, rape, murder, steal, cry, love, create, and most importantly… survive.

Come the industrial revolution between 1760 and 1840. Sapiens have discovered that if you heat water in a tea kettle, it creates a flow of steam which could power a turbine. They realized that this was a way to travel large distances, power machines, and generate electricity. They quickly turned their unclenched fists to work shoveling coke to make steel, shoveling coal into engines, working pedals and guiding fabrics to clothe, decorate, and integrate their societies. They used their hands to create tools of a caliber that no Sapien could have ever imagined before, forever changing the face of the planet for better or worse, and the cycle continued. We continued to eat, sleep, walk, run, rape, murder, steal, cry, love, create, and survive, but the consequences have been deepened. Our tools equipped our hands with the furthest reach in history, the ability to wipe out civilizations by the sword and cannon, the ability to coerce, to extract will, to ruin and burn with little resistance from the enemy’s upturned palms.

Globalization has no hands. The internet has no will. Technology has no spirit. The environment doesn’t make mistakes. If the gears of industry ground to a halt because humanity is deemed too irresponsible to take care of our mother earth, so be it. We’ll continue to eat, sleep, walk, run, rape, murder, steal, cry, love, create, and do anything to survive. Those with unclenched fists will wield tools, because that’s what our hands are for, and the reason we practice mindfulness is not so that we may tear down all that we’ve accomplished, or use what we’ve created to destroy, but to realize that we are flawed and to rectify our mistakes and to continue to strive to do the right thing and ensure what’s most important: Our survival.

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