Did you know that if you hold your middle fingers and thumbs together in front of your lower ribcage – tip to tip, nail edge to nail edge – it is possible to form a nearly perfect looking circle? To achieve such a thing, though, you have to cup your palms and straighten your other fingers, straining all the time to keep those fingertips together and maintain that perfect curve. My fingers quiver, I can feel the tension all through my fingers, bleeding back into the seat of my hands and through my forearms. My elbows tense; my shoulders cramp up. It is not a comfortable pose to hold.
I can see why the shape is attractive. Something about the smooth line, the graceful cornerless-ness, screams strength and flexibility. The circle is not, really. Even in nature, the concentric rings of a droplet into a larger body of water, making waves and ripples that flow out and come back… eventually interrupting each other. We think of the sun’s circle as perfect. But even the sun bulges out in its center. More than the circle, we see spirals, the Fibonacci sequence. Even to our restless eyes, more beautiful than even sets are the odds, a group of three, five, sevens, scattered in imperfect clusters, mushrooms on the forest floor, fallen leaves, a pile of nuts laid away by an industrious squirrel.
Why is it, then, that we strain so hard for perfection ourselves, bending and twisting uncomfortably to attain and hold something we cannot hold? The slightest quiver and the circle bows out, morphing into something else altogether.
If you relax your hands, let each muscle sigh and release, your fingertips come naturally together. The thumbs straighten and middle fingers begin to bow outward. Is it a coincidence that relaxing and holding our fingertips together like this creates the shape of our heart? That if we bring all of our fingertips together, gently, pinky to pinky, ring finger to ring finger, index fingers pointing the way, that we could cradle a human heart in the space between our palms?
I like to think not.