friday five: hand in the fire

(Robert Mapplethorpe, Hand in Fire, 1985)

Posted by Mary Beth at RevGalBlogPals: There is a German expression: ich würde die Hand dafür ins Feuer legen, which means: “I would put my hand in the fire for that.”

I learned it many years ago, while reading the Best Reference Letter Ever: written by a very distinguished linguistics professor for a student who went on to win a prestigious international scholarship. This student, he said, was destined for greatness; and he submitted his judgment with the certainty of the expression above.

I’ve always held the concept as a very important indicator in my mind. “Would I put my hand in the fire for that?” I sometimes think, and it helps me to make a decision or see a situation more clearly. It’s similar to “is this the battlefield I want to die on?”

These days (certainly as every day) there seems to be so much difficulty, wrong, pain, injustice, and mismanagement in our world, and I need a little revitalization. Often when I feel this way, I’ll write a list of things for which I’m grateful, but that’s certainly been done, and I need a bit of a stronger draught.

So, what are five things for which would you put your hand in the fire? Things / people / causes in which you believe passionately and completely? This might be demonstrated in that you would take extraordinary (for you) action…donations, marching, writing letters…or merely in the way you live your life. You may give as much or as little detail as you wish.

1) The right for my daughter and my son (and others’ daughters and sons) to be able to pursue anything they wish–vocationally, of course, but also along the way. I don’t want them to ever have to look over at the group the other gets to participate in and wish that were their group. (I’m not naive enough to think I can stop this from ever happening. My mom certainly tried on my behalf yet it happened to me a lot, but maybe for my children it will be less and for their children it will be even less.) That’s the biggie for me.

2) The concept that the humanities are important in education. It’s in the humanities that we learn how to be people. If our science and math educated people don’t know how to look at the world around them and how to try to understand humanity, what’s the point?

3) Separation of church and state.

4) There are people I would “put my hand in the fire” for: my husband and children and parents and cousins and aunts and uncles. Many of my friends, even those with whom I disagree.

5) Since the original context of the use of the quote was a letter of recommendation, I have been thinking about students for whom I have written such letters. And yes, there are some (many, even) for whom I would absolutely “put my hand in the fire.”

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2 Responses to friday five: hand in the fire

  1. Mary Beth says:

    Well said! I resonate with them all. Thank you for playing along.

  2. Mavis says:

    Such an interesting list. At Notre Dame Australia every student has to complete (and pass) units in liberal arts as a part of their degree. I was so proud of a current student who defended this publically the other night. And church and state – I didn’t even think of that but I’m hand-burning with you on that one,

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