Thumb’s up

May 5:

Five fingers with which to grasp, trace, hold, push, punch, wave, pull, tickle. Four fingers and a contrary thumb that opposes all others. While the longer, more slender siblings have three phalanges, it manages to do and be MORE with only two phalanges and a single knuckle. It twists cockeyed in its joint so it can look backwards and forwards. It wraps around to carry a package, open a door, shake a hand, wiggle on a baby’s shoe or hold a pen. The first tool separating us from other animals (along with our distant cousin primates) is the thumb, anatomically numbered the FIRST digit. Think The Fonz. Think President Clinton.

Think Scouts’ Honor pledges. The thumb defies the norm, brakes rank and in doing so……gives the decisive edge. The thumb shifts the paradigm. But I suppose the thumb may wish to be one of the longer, more elegant fingers: to point in judgment or at desire. The index finger identifies THAT thing we wish to point out to others. The middle finger, being longest, gets the job of insult. He gets to flick people off, snubbing the enemy or traitor. The ring finger hold the sacred, the bearer of vow and promise. The pinky finger, likes it wee-wee toe cousin is simply cute. The pinky symbolizes daintiness when sipping tea or feigned coyness hiding nefariousness like Dr. Evil in Austin Powers.

But the thumb….the squat, chubby, one knuckled thumb who can’t get in line, can’t stand at proper attention, dwarfed in comparison to the other four is the one finger that allows everything to get done. The thumb may have an inferiority complex or may be a little Napoleon, dictating and dominating its brethren.

But being a thumb is balance, the ultimate position of humility and power. You are different. You’ll never be long and slender, never face forward, never be a nail model. You’ll never grow a third phalanx. But, the others depend on you, could NEVER do all that they do without you. You have to accept your shape, your position, the range of motion you have that is different and solitary. The thumb is all alone. Polydactyly NEVER happens on the thumb side of the hand, only on the pinky’s side. So, the thumb can be proud of its uniqueness but that pride is tempered by never being like its siblings. It’s a finger. That can’t be denied. But it’s the thumb. No one calls it a thumb finger like the others get called ring finger, little finger, middle finger or the pointer finger. The thumb is just a thumb.

Would you trade away being the thumb?

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