In these times of virtual connections and electronic books, ready meals and service jobs, it often seems as if our bodies were only there so that the brain has an ass to sit on. We do still use our hands, and as Apple’s touch interfaced-products have shown, there can be tremendous appeal to manipulating even virtual objects at a touch of a finger and a flick of the wrist.
Touch and manipulation (as in, moving objects around by your hands, not getting people to do what they don’t really want) are still underrated, though.
It may be that the importance of our hands to our happiness simply comes from them being our main tools, but it bears mentioning even so. It is hands with opposable thumbs that made us human, have given us the manifold power to do things: you can shake somebody’s hand, you can write them a letter, you can type on the keyboard, use any number of tools – or simply feel a surface.
Even the way we talk about it shows the connections: you “feel” a surface, a heartbeat, a person, same as you “feel” calm, or excited, or happy. And we feel happy when we achieve something, create something – particularly so when we see it arising out of our own effort.
You put seeds in the ground, care for the plants, and watch them grow.
You put pen to paper and work on letting a good text arise, as your thoughts get transformed into words.
You take a lump of clay and mold it into a form.
Some of the most satisfying of these ways of being active and creative – and the reason to write about them separately from how achievement makes happy – are those in which we handle something directly.
It can be frustrating when you are not as good yet as you’d like to be, but that in itself is a part of the learning we very much need to appreciate that happiness is hard work.
Even as it still takes practice to become able to make anything beautiful, tending some plants with your own hands, doing handicrafts – knitting, pottery, woodwork,… take your pick – lets touch and manipulation come together with skill and practice to translate ideas of what to do into material objects that your hands shape right before your eyes.
When you found something to stick with, there is hardly anything better than getting into the flow of this direct creation of beautiful things, in which you see that you yourself can get things done, create something.
As the world gets ever more complicated, and we feel as nothing but cogs in the machine, never quite knowing what contribution we ourselves are making, feeling superfluous, this becomes every more necessary a feeling.
Should things really get difficult, with future challenges meaning that more practical skills will become essential – well, then being able to knit, mend your socks, cook, etc. will be among those essentials. If not, it’s still a happy feeling to be able to do it, not have to rush out and buy all the time, not be stuck with the only choice being what to consume.