The Opposable Thumb

  The thumb appears stubby in comparison to the other digits. Though powerful looking, were it lined up beside them, it would seem to have been short changed in the movement granted it. If one did not understand its function, it would be considered oddly placed and weirdly oriented. Because of its opposition to the rest, one might think it did not belong. Perhaps it was a mistake - an accidental flaw in the natural order of things - something to be ignored, even hidden, unless and until it could be corrected or removed. In the meantime, the stubby, powerful thumb might best be kept tucked beneath all the rest of the fingers, relatively safely under control and out of sight.

  Consider the human race without the opposable thumb. Could there be such a thing? An individual, yes - without question. But all of humanity, developing as we have? The thumb makes possible the way in which we grasp. Without our grasp, both physical and metaphorical, we could not be as we are. We could not be who we are.

  The greatest value of the thumb is in its relationship to the four fingers. It would be of dramatically less use by itself. Likewise, the other digits would suffer great loss of ability without the thumb, even while retaining their own full strength and dexterity. The hand functions as a whole. Without the oddly positioned, differently proportioned thumb, we would not be able to get a proper grip.

  The thumb is the digit of opposition. It is in moving against the fingers that it makes them immeasurably more capable. The thumb is the digit of individual capability in the midst of the crowd, because it must measure up to the collective effort of the rest in order to perform its function fully. The thumb is the digit of balance and of order existing where there is apparent chaos. One must know how to look to be able to see it. Think of a set of scales with a one pound weight on one side and, on the other, a five ounce, two of four ounces each, and one of three ounces. Though the visual effect of the scales might seem uneven, they will still balance. Replace the 16 ounce piece with one more similar to the others, and the scales will tip.

  Were the thumb actually to be considered inferior and dangerous, it would need the very strength that made it seem such a threat in order to survive. While not conferring invincibility, strength of both muscle and bone structure do render the thumb less easily broken. Accidents and relatively minor or unsophisticated attacks are less likely to result in injury to a sturdily designed and well maintained thumb.

  Were the thumb thought purposeless and ridiculous, it would be much more difficult for anyone to gain by its presence. However, this might not entirely preclude the occasional stumbling upon the use of it and, amongst those not afraid of what they had found, the beginning of a journey of joyful discovery and increasing appreciation of its existence. Those brave enough not to deny what they knew, at least to themselves, would truly achieve the ability to grasp. And, though they did not know it, even those who continued to fail to understand would actually benefit from those who embraced the more enlightened view. But some measure of care would need to be taken to protect what was known and the people who knew it, in order to prevent that benefit from being lost.

  Light shines from a candle when we are ready for fire to be brought to the wick. To be prepared may require various things. But we will continue to struggle to see for as long as we sit in the dark, attempting to use four fingers to hold down the thumb, instead of allowing that one part of the hand to participate in the striking of the match.


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