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The Space Between Fingertips

Posted on | September 23, 2017 | 1 Comment

In Michelangelo’s the “Creation of Adam” God reaches down to touch Adam and create mankind.

For my entire life I’ve been fascinated by this picture. I have never researched anything about the original reason this piece of art was made. I only know what I think of the space between God and Adam’s fingers.

In my early 20s I thought of it as an incredible metaphor of the helplessness of the forces of life that are greater than we are to truly reach us. That when we pray to God, even if that creator does exist, the laws of the universe separate us from his aid. That even if the Creator wanted to perform a miracle he couldn’t do it without destroying the very fabric of our reality.  That God was locked away from us by inches. And that all he could do is reach out to us and find his finger so close he could almost touch us but unable to bridge the gap. The idea of his helpless sorrow struck me as beautiful. And it was an idea of God that didn’t make me feel angry at the injustice at the core of the nature of our world. Imagine the idea of a God who prays. Who watches with hope rather than knowledge.

I mostly believe in God at 3 AM when I’m looking out a window at the moon, trying to reconcile why bad things happen to good people.

It isn’t 3 in the morning and my life is going pretty well.

I  also have been thinking of that space between fingertips in a different way.

I see the space as a moving metaphor for how all empathy is destined for failure, if the hope is for perfect understanding.

To me the greatest mark of empathy is your understanding of that failure. Your whole life you try to connect to someone. There are people that you get so close to you you can feel the electricity of their touch from half a room away but you can’t really know what is motivating them or exactly what they need to hear. You can hallucinate the feeling of direct contact and complete immersion. But when you hear a story you have to imagine it. Every image has to travel through your filters of prejudice and experience. You can try to walk in their shoes but you will make that walk using your legs.

Humans aren’t monolithic. Your experience of life isn’t the same as people as even your siblings who have undergone so much of their life in an exact same manner as you have. You aren’t the group you belong to or most closely identify with. Eyewitnesses of the same crime are notoriously unreliable because of the basic prejudices we all face when we use our perception.

Our whole lives are built around making connection. We desire to completely eliminate the space between fingertips. Because we don’t want to have lived our lives alone. Because we began our lives looking in mirrors and imagining our mothers as an extension of our body. Only the truest kindness is in the understanding of that space. That no experience is the same. That all we can do is helplessly reach across the void in hopes of getting close enough to another person to grant them the gift of mercy from their own experience. To give them a safe passage through their mind and yours.

Doing a little research on this article I discovered that this picture is often thought to be Michelangelo’s message about the human mind and how to live with it. The twelve figures surrounding God and Adam when pieced together resemble different parts of the human brain. Bet you didn’t know that.

I use to think all sentences with the words, “I wish” were an embodiment of helpless anxiety.  I developed this belief during a period of particularly intense anxiety when wishing became an addiction. I decided that wishes should be banished from my vocabulary because I saw them as a desire for a reality that couldn’t exist.

Recently I have been practicing loving kindness meditation.

I sit.

I  wish for someone to be kind, to be loved, to accept the world as it is and to not suffer. There are a million variants on this prayer but that’s mine. I do this for strangers, for teachers, for friends, for enemies and for myself.  I like these words because they feel like realistic things to hope for. Accepting life means not blaming ourselves for the moments where life can’t meet our expectations. We should be kind. Everyone should be loved. We should all experience moments where we don’t suffer.

I recently listened to a guided loving kindness meditation that was a little different. In it the speaker went much further than I had ever been wiling to go. He wished for the person to be free. To be happy without reserve. To feel no pain. To feel only joy. To feel blessed by their experiences.

My first instinct was to recoil. That what the speaker was wishing for wasn’t realistic. No one can live their lives without pain. No one gets to feel only joy for much longer than a few minutes at a time. You can’t live your life like that.

The fingers don’t touch. Prayers aren’t answered.

Only I stopped myself from trying to practice loving kindness meditation in reasonable doses.

I let myself wish with such ridiculous childish hope for humanity. For everyone to get to experience those same feelings of child like wonder when they first looked at the sky and understand the insane vastness of nature. To feel themselves running through a park screaming so happily and loudly that the clouds could hear their voices. For every wound to heal.

It felt good. Really good.

See the human heart isn’t realistic. And its beauty isn’t in the way it conforms to expectation. But how it exceeds it. How we can imagine better worlds than ours and create them.

It’s the primal helplessness of a heart that wishes for more power than it can possibly possess. A wish so strong that it could break the very laws of reality.  It’s the parent who wishes they could protect their child from any harm. Humans can wish to take someone’s pain. Are willing to take it on themselves just to relieve that pain.

It’s crazy to me that people can love like that. That there are people in your life who love you so much that they wish that life wasn’t the way it is so that you could feel better.

Miracles aren’t possible. You can’t fully take away someone else’s pain. But you can get close.

And sometimes, if you love hard enough, you can get close enough to feel the space between fingertips.

 

 

 

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One Response to “The Space Between Fingertips”

  1. Riley
    September 29th, 2017 @ 9:33 pm

    Beautifully written, and so articulate. I must have seen pictures of that painting a thousand times, and never once thought about that seemingly insignificant space, but your post changed that…really enjoyed reading this!

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    Michael Kimber is a 26-year-old journalist who suffered a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009. On March 28th, 2010 when he recovered from mental illness, he began writing a blog called Colony-of-losers. About falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond jew. What began with a few friends and his mother reading has become a cult phenomenon, averaging 10,000 views a week, receiving praise from Commonwealth Award Winner Shandi Mitchell and many others. On, November 3rd, 2010, the one year anniversary of his mental breakdown he signed with Anne McDermid and Associates, the largest literary agency in Canada. In a year he went from wearing pajamas, making his couch depression HQ to leaving his hometown for the Toronto, where he exclusively wears business suits and the armor of ancient Greeks. Don't worry, he's still choking on the feet he contently sticks in his mouth and making moments awkward just by being part of them. During these struggles he met other talented bastards and drew them into his circle. Peter Diamond became his illustrator. Patrick Campbell his video editor and part time photographer. He recently added the incredibly talented John Packman as Colony of Losers Toronto photographer. Without the support of the Colony of Losers, Michael Kimber would be nothing. Welcome to the losers and the success that comes from utter and complete failure. You aren’t alone. Follow him on twitter.com/colonyoflosersand twitter.com/quimbo. If you’d like to hire him for a public speaking engagement for mental health events in Toronto, like to arrange an interview, offer millions to publish his book or for another reason contact Michael please email him. And join his facebook Colony of Losers.

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    I’m not a trained psychologist. Just a fellow traveler. If you need help seek it from the professionals. The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a help locator. You can find crisis resources provided by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. If you are in the states check here. It will give you services by zip code. I’d also recommend checking out Mindyourmind.ca. I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

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