Monday, January 24, 2011

Right and Left

Much of the world is geared for right-handers, who make up 85-90% of human population. Many tools—table saws, scissors, manual can openers, for example—are nearly impossible for left handers to use properly. Don’t believe me? All you right-handers out there: pick up a pair of scissors with your left hand and try to make them work. Just try it.

The words “right and left” also have interesting linguistic implications. In Latin, the word “sinistra,”from which we get “sinister,” originally meant left. The Latin word for right-handedness is “dexter,” as in dexterous and skillful. Many other languages have positive correlations for the concept of “right” and negative correlations for the concept of “left.”

I, of course, am profoundly left handed. I cope with this dominant right handed world by routinely bumping into things, frustrating people who have to share a computer with me because I immediately put the mouse on the left of the keyboard, and staying away from power tools and kitchen implements. 

Not all is bad for left-handers. Four of the last six US Presidents have been left handed. Left-handed baseball players have advantages. My own left-handedness helped when I was learning biblical Hebrew. Reading and writing right to left instead of left to right was a piece of cake.

We lefthanders have an advantage with the typical QWERTY keyboard. With that arrangement, 56% of the letters typed are done by the left hand. Take that, you righties! We lefthanders can win speed contests there!

Even so, being in a minority like this, and one that really does affect almost everything I do every day, colors my view of the world. For me, it is not friendly world mechanically speaking. Work spaces are arranged uncomfortably for me. I engage in energy-draining mental gymnastics to smooth out this awkwardness. 

No one on the dominant side, that is, the right-handed designers of all those work spaces and tools, set out intentionally to make life more complicated for us left-handers. It’s just not thought about at all. With the vast majority of people being right-handed, it makes sense that most implements and spaces will cater to that dominance.

And that, the unthinking catering to the dominant, is what finally brings me to my point today. 

Left-handers have made significant contributions to the world. Here are just a few whose left-handed lives have made indelible impressions: Leonardo Da Vinci; Michelangelo; Pablo Picasso; Julius Caesar; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Ludwig Van Beethoven; Winston Churchill; Alexander the Great; Joan of Arc; Marie Curie, Albert Einstein. 

I suspect it is the fact that the world really didn’t work well for them that helped push their creative impulses. They were out of step. They didn’t do things normally. 

The dominant world enriches itself endlessly when it makes room for the less-dominant to have a voice. Those on the margins: left-handed, minority, poor, mentally and physically challenged—anything that is different from the dominant, mainstream culture—have voices that must be heard and embraced. 

We impoverish ourselves politically, socially, and spiritually with a stance that there is no room for the other, for the ones who see life and events and shapes and sounds and music and art differently than we do. We impoverish ourselves when we insist that there is only one right way to see or think or believe or sing or worship. We deny the creative energies of God when we tell others to be uncreative in their thinking.

For all of you “dominants” out there (and all of us are in one way or another), keep your ears open to the different and the offbeat. Often there, in that unexpected and often awkward movement, we hear the voice of God, saying, “Pay attention. The Kingdom of Heaven has just shown up. Don’t miss it.”

1 comment:

Angie Hammond said...

Hey Christy,
I really enjoyed this look into Left and Right and how you tied it into being different.

I'd like to comment on it in a rather different manner. My left-handed way of looking at it.

Same theme just different approach.

When you think about Christ and who he picked for his disciples and those God picked as prophets, we aren't told if they were left-handed or not, but we see that they were different in some way from the normal. When you get right down to it, they didn't fit the dominant mold of their times. Perhaps that is why God chose them. They each in their own way were not tied to the normal but instead weren't afraid to walk to the beat of a different drum.

So, if you ask me, a true Christian needs to be able to heat the beat of the different drum where ever he or she might encounter it. As you say the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and if we don't stop and listen we might miss it.

Thanks for a refreshing way of looking at it.

Christ himself didn't fit the mold. He was very different.