an ode to opposable thumbs

You never really appreciate things until you don’t have use of them anymore.

Like opposable thumbs.

I still have mine, thankfully. But the use of the thumb on my left hand is diminished, thanks to a tussle with a feral cat I was trying to put in a cage. Cat ranching is serious and dangerous business, as you know.

But since I’m right handed I have learned two things: I use my left hand much more than I imagined and my left thumb is an important part of my life.

It’s the ability to hold things steady while you do things to them or with them that makes the thumb so useful. And apparently I hold lots of things steady with my left hand so I can do things to them with my right hand.

Some other primates have opposable thumbs, and a case could be made for some other mammals and marsupials, even a dinosaur or two. But the large areas of contact between the pulp of the thumb and the index finger is a distinctive human characteristic.

It allows us to open and apply a ban-aid, a task I’m finding more challenging this week.

There are evolutionary theories for the development of opposable thumbs, of course, mostly involving what we could do with our fingers when we decided not to walk on all fours.

But personally, I’m sure Adam and Eve had opposable thumbs. They make picking forbidden fruit much easier, although I doubt that was their intended purpose.

Opposable thumbs mostly allow us to make things, one of the two most important ways in which we share the image of our Creator. (The other is the ability to tell stories, which can also get pretty creative.)

Not that God has or needs opposable thumbs. I’m just glad he gave me two.

And didn’t give the barn cats any.

This has nothing to do with thumbs, or even cat ranching, but there is an internet film festival for cats. And this is my favorite entry, the best foreign feline art film ever. My cats are much meaner than this one, by the way:

3 thoughts on “an ode to opposable thumbs”

  1. You need to leave the cat breaking to the younger catboys. Those cats are going to be the death of you. Especially if they mutate into zombie cats which is now my worst fear.

    Make a nice pot of tea and put your thumb on ice.

  2. My black cat has thumbs! They are not opposable, but I think they help her balance. Her front paws are huge because of them. I think she would have been a World Cup class soccer player. But, as many cats with ennui would attest, that sort of activity is childish and silly, utterly meaningless while tasty snacks are left just out of reach (in her case, out the patio screen door). The Creator was doing sculpture when he created her. But, because the Creator has a sense of humor, she too could be in a French film.

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