Thursday, October 23, 2014
Our tools shape our hands
My fingers have big knuckles, and they’ve always had big knuckles. Tracings of my childhood hands revealed bumps where my friends had little arcs. The third finger of my right hand has developed a particular characteristic. It takes a slight jog to the right at the first interphalangeal joint, the joint that most people use to knock on doors. It has done this for years, but only recently did I realize the true origin of this pattern: writing.
I grew up in the pre-computer age, the time when we took notes and wrote assignments with pens, pencils, and papers. Everything was done that way, from book reports to math problems to short essays. Longer papers were cranked out on typewriters, but usually from a draft written on yellow legal paper. We also wrote personal letters in what we called long hand, and we addressed Christmas cards the same way, not with computer labels. I don’t know how my third finger would be shaped if I had grown up with computers doing most of my writing. I do know that a writing implement fits perfectly in the crook that exists there now.
As a piano teacher, I have a pencil in my hand most of my teaching hours, at the ready to mark errors or suggestions. I trade the pencil out for a pen when I write down the week’s assignment in a practice book. I've been known to demonstrate simple piano patterns with one of these implements still in my hand, a minor gymnastic feat.