Exercises For The Hands
( Originally Published 1907 )
I AM, and have been, any time these thirty years, a man who works with his hands — a handicraftsman. If the most nimble-fingered watch-maker among you will come to my workshop, he may set me to put a watch together, and I will set him to dissect, say, a black beetle's nerves. I do not wish to vaunt, but I am inclined to think that I shall manage my job to his satisfaction sooner than he will do his piece of work to mine." Thos. H. Huxley.
THEORY OF THIS CHAPTER
The hand, mind's executive organ;
The hands are said to indicate, in a general way, the nature of their owner. The so-called " science of palmistry " is based on the inner lines of the hand, and the delicate curving lines of the finger-ends are now observed in prison studies for the identification of criminals. Yet few people know their own hands. This is because few people really understand the one condition of all knowledge, attention.
Nevertheless, the hand is one of the most perfect and obedient of servants. Industry, invention, science, art, reveal the range of its nobility, according to the soul behind it. To the ditch-digger it may be a claw only; to the painter and sculptor an instrument of creative power. A catapult or a wound-dresser, a sword-wielder or a swayer of the pen, a food producer or a mind revealer, a tool or an instrument of the noblest humanity, the hand is servant and king among the senses, an index of spirit-values, a prophet of all the future.
The hand is the executive organ of the body.
As the body is the instrument of mind, the hand, therefore, becomes mind's chief officer in life.
The savage wills to procure flesh for food : the out-come is the spear, the bow and arrow, the hook and net.
The hunter wills a permanent shelter: the outcome is the hammer, the axe, the saw, the trowel, nails and various building materials.
The house-dweller wills agriculture : the outcome is the spade, the pickaxe, the shovel, the hoe, the plow, the rake, the sickle, scythe, cradle, mower, reaper, thresher, mill.
The farmer wills education : the outcome is pen, ink and paper, the printing-press, the laboratory, the microscope and telescope, the library, the school and college.
The educated soul wills art : the outcome is the chisel and mallet, the brush and pallet, the canvas and the museum.
The artistic mind wills music : the outcome is the reed, string, horn — orchestral talent.
These all will government : the outcome is the throne and sceptre, the constitution, the court and council-rooms, the sword, gun, treaty.
Man wills religion : the outcome is the altar, the Book, the Church, the Rubric; the Concrete Philanthropy of Soul.
Every single step in this long journey, the hand has been omnipresent as the Executive of the Conquering Will.
Training of the hand always reacts upon the growing mind. It may become a medium by which to culture the soul and develop the Will. Like Will like hand. But as well, like hand like Will. Whoever puts his whole hand to the growth of Will-power, has power of will wholly in hand.
The following should be practised :
(a) Exercise No. 1. Examine the hands carefully. Get acquainted with them. Note their peculiarities, so intently and thoughtfully that you can form a mental picture of them with closed eyes.
(b) Slowly move the limp fingers of the right hand toward the palm until they touch it, and return in the same manner, six times.
(c) Repeat while bringing the thumb in the same manner under to meet the fingers six times.
(d) Repeat with stiffened muscles, each exercise above, six times.
(e) With hand extended, open, slowly spread fingers and thumb from one another, and return to touch, six times.
(f) Repeat all exercises with the left hand, six times.
(g) Repeat every day for ten days, with rest of two days.
What is the value of these directions? None at all, unless you think, and above everything else, put Will into each movement.
(1) Exercise No. 2. Saw off six inches of an old broom-handle. Stand erect. Fill the lungs. With the right hand held straight out in front and at arm's length, grasp the piece of wood, and slowly and gradually grip the same, beginning with light pressure and increasing to the limit of strength. Repeat six times.
(2) Repeat with the arm straight out at the right side, six times.
(3) Repeat with the arm straight up from the right shoulder, six times.
(4) Repeat with the arm prone at the right side, six times.
(5) Repeat with the arm straight back from right side, and held up as far as possible, six times.
(6) Now exercise the left hand in the same manner, following the order above indicated. The exercises may be alternated between the right hand and the left. Example: Entire exercise with right hand; same with left, twelve times. Also, each part of exercise with right and left hands, twelve times.
Remember, the lungs should be inflated during each movement, and a slight rest should be indulged from time to time. Above all, a sense of Will must be kept strongly in mind.
(7) Repeat every day for ten days, with rest of two days.
(a) Exercise No. 3. Procure a spring-balance weighing scale, registering ten or twelve pounds. Insert the broom handle in ring. Drive a nail into a table, the length of the balance from the edge, and enough more to permit the thumb of the hand grasping the wood to curve under the table edge and cling. Now throw the balance-hook over the nail, grasp the wood with fingers of right hand, thumb under table edge, and by finger movement only (do not pull with the arm) draw on the balance as hard as possible. The balance-hook must pull on nail far enough from the edge of the table to prevent the fingers while drawing as suggested from quite touching the palm of the hand.
(b) Repeat, with intervals of rest, six times.
(c) Make a dated record of pull indicated in pounds
and fractions, mark right hand, and preserve.
(d) Repeat with the left hand, six times.
(e) Continue every day for ten days, with rest. On the tenth day, compare records and note progress.
In this work, never fail an instant to put Will into each movement.
In particular, note, from time to time, whether or not you can increase pulling power of fingers by sheer exercise of Will. Observe which hand registers greater improvement in given time.
(1) Exercise No. 4. Rest two days from the tenth day. Repeat the above exercises with right and left hands alternately, six times in all, while some one is playing upon any good instrument a strong and rapid musical composition. Make record as before.
(2) Continue for ten days, with rest. Summons constantly a feeling of the greatest resolution possible, during all movements.
On the tenth day, compare records and note improvement in each hand. Observe which hand has now made the greatest improvement.
Observe especially whether music has seemed to in-crease Will-power. Explain that fact.
(a) Exercise No. 5. Imagine that you hold a revolver in the right hand. Now think of pulling the trigger. Throw a sense of great energy into the finger, but do not move it. Now hold the breath and repeat the imaginary act. Do you feel energy in the finger as before? Resolve to do so. Will mightily to that end.
(b) Repeat with all fingers in turn. Right hand. Left hand. Six times.
(c) Repeat for ten days. Observe final improvement.
Exercise No. 6. Set the hands to the learning of some useful mechanical trade the skillful use of various tools, as carving, engraving, cabinet making. If already so employed, take up some musical instrument, or drawing, or painting. Resolve to master one thing ! Persist until the goal is yours.
Exercise No. 7. Strive to cultivate and maintain a feeling of nice and confident skill while engaged in any manual work, as advised in "Business Power" under the caption, " Skilled Craftsmanship." " The idea is a sense in consciousness of nicety, delicacy, perfection, in every member of the body, used at any time. This gives harmony between the conscious and the deeper or subconscious self —a harmony always needful to the best work. One man is the 'bull in the china closet;' another is deftness itself. As a matter of fact, the most skillful persons possess this consciousness without being particularly aware of it."
Exercise No. 8. " The best results demand a man's best conscious powers on the matter in hand. You are urged to multiply yourself into what you do. But in doing a thing skillfully, having the skilled feeling developed, you really depend on the acquired habits and ability which previous thought has ` bedded down' in the deeper self. You should, therefore, remember that the trained deeper self may be trusted. Often times, when your ordinary thinking becomes over anxious or 'flurried,' you confuse your own skill. Some things which we do perfectly without conscious effort, we immediately 'muss up' if we try carefully to attend to all details. Do not permit the hurried feeling to take possession of your nerves. When such feeling does occur, quiet yourself by an act of Will; turn, if necessary, to other work for a time, and thus prevent the habit of unsteadiness of spirit and body, so obviating 'hair-trigger' conditions and a thousand blunders."
Exercise No. 9. Above all, never permit yourself to be pushed in your work beyond a pace consistent with the best results. Remember, when the mind is steady the hand is almost sure to follow that condition
These exercises may be continued with profit, provided the idea of Will is everlastingly borne in mind.