Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Worth a Cramp

It's not just the bulgingly huge frontal cortex of our brains that brought our species so far along in terms of evolution. The opposable thumb plays an equally important role. If we couldn't build, make, create physically, we would still be living in caves, spouting all our fancy ideas to each other while sitting around a crudely made fire. Your hands are genuinely miraculous.

I love thinking about how our hands developed from very sensitive feet to the marvels they became once we got up on two legs, once we started using them for sophisticated tasks. Oh the wonders we have created. And ... oh god ... the messes we've made, all because we have curious brains and opposable thumbs.

No matter how many miraculous devices you have at your beck and call, continue to write every day by hand. Yes, by hand, on paper, with a pen or pencil or brush. Developing and refining the fine coordination needed to write in relatively straight lines, making relatively like-sized lines of text, creates all kinds of neural connections. You can thread a needle more easily, pluck out a rogue eyebrow hair, handle your contact lenses smoothly. Standing and sitting, as well as walking, are smoother. Eye-hand coordination is a natural partnership; it's no wonder the practice is so good for us.

I'll admit it's hard to make myself write by hand every day. It seems to take so long and my hand literally cramps after awhile. I try to keep in mind, when feeling impatient, that Middlemarch, for instance, was written by hand. Every word of it. Holy cow.

Get out a pen and write a page of text today. It really helps. Shalom.


Rebecca Clayton said...

Frank Wilson's "The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture" is a really fascinating book--maybe you've read it already?

He's a neurologist specializing in problems with the hands--especially classical musicians. It's a big, ambitious book about evolution, the brain, the mind, and the Nature of Life. (I just dug it out and realized I didn't remember much about the second half...did I stop reading, or did my brain just glaze over? I've got to read it again!)

Reya Mellicker said...

Rebecca - just saw this. Oh me too"