Handedness: The Sharknado Identity Crisis

One of the most existential crises we experience in life is trying to figure out: Who am I? The philosophical approach asks a string of questions that only lead to more questions, never coming to a truth. The scientific method leans closer to the truth; we can test hypotheses about ourselves, form theories and these theories can evolve and get close to becoming scientific law, but that’s pretty rare. As the saying goes, “the only constant in life is change.”

Handedness is defined as “the tendency to use either the right or the left hand more naturally than the other.” When we’re young, our handedness reveals itself. Only 10% of people are left-handed. In a world with something like 7.6 billion people, that equates to roughly 760 million lefties. My wife, my daughter and I are all left-handed, so our house proudly boasts a 100% left-handed population. That said, speaking from experience, lefties often compensate for living in a right-handed world, and adapt to things that are not made for us. Other times, we unknowingly learn things before really discovering our handedness. For example, my father plays drums and guitar and as a result there were drums and guitars in my house growing up. I started playing drums when I was three and aped how he played, which was playing as a conventional right-handed drummer using a matched grip. At three, I didn’t know that drums could be set up or played any other way. There are debates in the drumming world to this day about the supposed conventional method of playing and the modern-day use of traditional grip, but that’s not where this is headed. Same goes for guitar. At 3 years old, I didn’t know you could play the guitar any other way let alone know they actually made lefty guitars. My grandfather, a lover of baseball, also started showing me how to bat at an early age, and he batted righty, so I too batted righty. However, when it came time to throw, my left-handedness became apparent. Handedness is one of the few things we believe about ourselves to be true. But, then philosophy rears its ugly head once more: the Sharkado Identity Crisis.

Watch out! A sharknado is tearing through your town. You can’t hide. Alas, just when you thought it was safe, a shark storms through your makeshift shelter and attacks, biting off your dominant hand. It takes years, but over time, you learn to adapt to this new way of living and your non-dominant hand becomes, by necessity, your dominant hand. One day, you’re on a conference call for work. There’s a big project in the works, and the sharpest minds are assembled from office locations all over the world. All hands on deck as the casual expression goes. Whilst waiting for all the callers to get on the line, people are making small talk. The talk somehow turns to handedness. Perhaps someone that’s lefty mentioned scissors, and references those weird green-handled scissors lefties were given in grade school, and asks the group: “Is anyone else left-handed?” It is a common superficial question. These are colleagues that know you in name only, so there was no malicious intent when this question was posed. They don’t know about the trauma you experienced in the sharknado. They don’t know anything about all the painful years of learning how to adapt. So, how do you answer their inquiry? To use myself as an example. Do I say: I am left-handed – I am right-handed, or I used to be left-handed but there was an accident so now I use my right hand? How would you answer?

The reality is that this situation is a reality for some (obviously not as a result of a sharknado). This existential crisis is very real and is also simultaneously metaphorical. For others still, perhaps born without hands or arms, how do they answer? Or if an accident claims both limbs, how would they answer? The casual superficiality of asking something so seemingly innocuous as “Are you righty or lefty?” suddenly has tremendous depth.


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Aspiring Stoic and Doting Father

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