I had a sneaky feeling that understanding why we are still displaying 'hands' in clusters just as the
cavemen did, might bear witness to this peculiar thing we call ‘recognition’ in its most primal form.
There had to be both impulsive as well as compulsive psychological motives for stamping the relief
of one’s hand in mud or dipping it in paint and slapping it onto rock faces or apartment walls as I did
at age three. Or casting them in plastic and stuffing them into boxes and then displaying this ‘art’ for
hundreds of thousands of dollars in fancy galleries.
Yes, they are funny and fascinating extensions of ours and certainly this has impact on our love
of them. But the universal sameness and durability of these imprints strongly suggest that the urge
had to have started as a cognitive parsing instinct. The logical reason likely having to do with
understanding them as a possession and ultimately as manifestations of oneself. And why not
celebrate these multi-motile extremities? After all, our hands are rather helpful appendages,
necessities of survival for grasping and stroking and probing and bracing us against falling, to
name a few of its remarkable attributes.
More wonderful is the entertainment value of just watching one hand or even one finger doing
something completely different than the others. Babies are onto to this at four months old as they
coo their way into vocalizing at the same time. You see them in the strollers multi-tasking as they
explore all the new things they own. They are shuttling between early language instincts and
looking at their hands and holding their feet in similar possessive ways. They are figuring out what
controls these things by virtue of controlling these things that are always in their field of vision.
In this fashion they are figuring out what objects in the world belong exclusively to them.
Early on, arms and legs might have been perceived as tentacled extensions like those of other
animals. Who really knows. Oddly enough, the free-standing hand-print seems to have become
the real mystery as do all things that exist outside of us so that the roiling question about identity
swiftly became, “Is that smudge I made the same thing as me?” When we owned the activity, we
owned the investiture of self with the mark we made as a unique representation in short form of
an individual. Transferring value to an abstract shape (or tone) is about systematic coding. And
systematic coding is the same thing a cognition. The cognitive habit once it began, could never
These hand images addressed and still do address, two universally conflicting concerns of
every human being; that of wanting to be certain we are a normal member of the species but only
to a point. That toxic power struggle between the need for individuality versus commonality
obviously drives the selfie epidemic which is precisely why it is an epidemic. We are that needy
and still that confused. It is also likely that the selfsame frustration propelled the hand print
manifestation for upward of almost 100,000 years. It could have been much longer and much
more pervasive. We only ‘recently’ found more stable places for their display when we found caves
could be permanent shrines.
From understanding that we self-manifested in sounds and motions and marks, we quickly
designated them as decisive. From ‘decisive’ we needed to build in a system of meaning and
equations around both the doing of it as well as the things themselves that we left for done.
We could revisit them because they now had a physical location and we could repeat them
through like actions. Why did we need to extrapolate meaning? Because the new neurons in
our brains and their routing of signals determined it be so.
Then came the discovery that ‘publishing’ itself as a means to make some part of yourself
visible over and over to your conspecifics as well as yourself - held a tremendous power of
persuasion. The self-identifying image could be manipulated, organized, re-produced, shared,
altered and made into a pattern. We wanted this very multisensory activity, not just the static
3d image but the chain linked operation of motion and touch involved in making it, to sear itself
into our long-term memories. For some reason it was very important because the linkage of
events leading to the final image was an essential part of the story and the essence of ‘meaning’.
It became a kind of baseline or background against which the drama of daily life was played out:
“As I was stamping my hand in the wet ochre, a huge rat ran by and the print was a blob.”
That blob becomes the place holder for a recounting of the event. A story is made, a memory and
a symbol all at once.
All this identity thinking and self-research had to have been prefigured by the cognition
protocols of identity. Finding out what resides in our brains that always seeks what ‘identity’ is
in the first place, is precisely where one has to begin the search for ‘recognition’ protocols and
not in the visual system or peri visual system. Only from there can we then proceed with the
incredible adventure of outwardly replicating aspects of ourselves and then on and on to
practically every aspect of our species-specific environment. Once we get the rhythm of this
method by practicing on ourselves, applying it to other things is simple.¬¬¬