Symmetry Gone Wrong






Why become ambidextrous?!

Many reasons. Let's say you break your arm. Do you want to be incapacitated for months while it heals? Best to be able to use both equaly in case of such an emergency. Also, if you're doing something physically tiring, when one arm gets tired, you can switch to the other, since it's just as good at the job as the other. Also, some jobs could be done better and easier if you could use both hands to do it. If you've ever sculpted stone with a chisel and a hammer -- or even whittled wood with a knife -- you'd know what I mean. There are just certain areas of your sculpture that you just can't get to the right angle to hammer / cut with the hand you're using. But if you could use the other hand, you could get the knife / chisel into the right position to work with. I don't see how anyone can stand not to be ambidextrous. I can't. "But, aren't people born ambidextrous?" you ask. No. You weren't born being able to eat, write, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and play guitar, were you? You had to learn to use your dominant hand. And you can learn to use the other one.


Well, chances are you have a dominant hand. As I understand it, this is the hand you are most comfortable using for most things. This is the hand that you use for everything. It's probably stronger, more nimble, more diverse, and maybe more flexible. There's a reason for this. Some say it's a genetic thing, but I disagree.

Now, maybe there is a gene that makes you more comfortable using one hand rather than the other -- look at identicle twins; they are mirror copies (physically) of eachother, so one is right-handed and the other is left-handed. But couldn't there be some environmental variables? I mean, think about it. When you first enter this world you learn everything about it through your parents, family, and anyone else you come in contact with. You learn the language just by hearing it, you learn how to walk by watching others, you learn how to act...

Now down the line when you start getting older and start learning to draw/write, what happens? Yes, you might not be handed a crayon or a pencil, you may pick it up on your own. But what has all your experience and observations told you? They've told you that people use one hand to write with. You watch baseball: pitchers always use the same hand to throw the ball. Someone hammering in a nail uses one hand to hold the nail, the other to hammer it in, but always the same hands for each. Someone cooking pancakes holds the spatula in one hand.

So, naturally, what do you do? You start using the hand you are most comfortable with, and neglect the other. And in turn you keep using that hand making it stronger and more agile. Your other hand doesn't get as much use and exercise as your dominant hand, so it's not as useful. So your dominant hand really does become dominant. And the posibility of using your weak hand seem even less likely. And the older you get, the less inclined you are to trying something that is going to be difficult right from the start, since you have years and years of experience using one hand, but practically none using the other.

Things you do everyday like eating cereal, brushing your teeth, combing your hair, and turning the dial on your locker combination -- altho they don't require much coordination, at least opposed to, say, writing -- still seem impossible to do (very well, at least) with your non-dominant hand, so most people won't ever learn to.

Now many of us already are a bit ambidextrous. Piano players, Stick players, typists, jugglers... But these are specific activities. My goal is to become equally functional with either hand, at any task. And I believe that if I make the struggle now, my children (who will learn by example) will have no problem with ambidextrousness... ambidextrosity... ambidextrity... ambidexterity..(?).. being ambidextrous.

Once they get a little older, I can explain to them the importance of using each hand equally, in hopes that will spark their interest in continuing my vision. Hopefully, by watching me, they will find the idea of being ambidextrous natural, so they will start using both hands equally, from the start. Ideally, they won't ever have a dominant hand; they'll have two that are equal in ability and strength.

About my Journey

I suppose I've had an interest in becoming ambidextrous for quite some time. I few important events that come to mind both happened my freshman year in high school. I'm sure there was mild interest before this time, but I don't remember any specifics.

In freshman english, we were doing something -- I don't remember what -- and I made some complaining remark -- again I don't remember what, specifically, except that it was likely conveying my annoyance at the right-handed world (even tho my dominant hand is my right hand)... Anyway, whatever it was I said, this girl in class looked at me from across the room in slight amazement and said,
"You're ambidextrous?", and I responded
"Uh, yeah, I guess".
Actually, I hadn't heard that term b4, so I really didn't know what it meant. But when I got home that night, I just had to look it up, being so curious, but too embarrassed to ask her what it meant. Of course when I found the definition, I was fascinated with the idea.

Another event was while I was in geometry there was about a paragraph in the text book (I don't know why or if it related to math, but it was in there nonetheless) written by a student talking about how if you want to learn how to write with your left hand, one exercise you can do is to write simultaneously with both, writing in opposite directions. This being so you can mimic the same muscle movements while trying to use what you already know. That summer I spent like two weeks doing this everyday. I did the mirror exercise, and also normal left-to-right writing, alternating hands each line, writing stuff like
"I am left handed. I am right handed. I am both-handed. I am ambidextrous."
But my mistake was in writing left-to-right, and in doing exercises -- as opposed to some pracical and useful task -- which lost my interest very quickly. The mirror exercise was nice, but my right hand wrote so much better that I got frustrated that I couldn't really mirror the other hand, 'cause the quality and the speed of each was not the same. I gave up on it and forgot about it for a time. It wasn't 'til much l8r (more recently) that I realized the importance of the mirror exercise.

Ever noticed how left-handed people often have a hard time writing? I've watched some of my friends write with their hands all cramped up, and uncomfortable and just looking totally awkward. They manage, many even have better handwriting then most people, but it's just not natural. It dawned on me (while experimenting again with it) that we don't write left-to-right. We write in the direction of the thumb to the pinky. On the right hand, this is left to right, but on the left hand, this is right to left. Once I realized that (and remembered the mirror exercise) I had a much easier time. When using your left hand, you should write right to left with "backwards" letters and sentences, so that if you hold it up to a mirror, it'll look "normal". It's more comfortable and natural, therefore easier. It was from this (and my obsession with improving our language, particularly our written language whose alphabet and spelling is very unphonetic -- but that's another page) that I created my own writing style.

When I was younger, and I was reading, I'd often lose my place when I reached the end of a line, 'cause when I went back to the front of the line, I'd often go back to the line I was just on rather than the next line and read over what I just read, making a completely incoherant sentence which often repeated 3 or 4 times before I carefully made sure I went on to the correct line. It was very frustrating. And if you think about it, the conventional methoud of reading and writing left-to-right every line, wastes time. If you factor in the time it takes for your eye (or hand) to get back to the front of the line, including every single line, it adds up. Okay, since the eyes move quickly, it may not be a noticable difference, but it's there. If you look at a dot-matrix printer, the time is noticable.

When a dot matrix printer is in high-quality mode, it'll write a line, then go back and write over it again filling in the gaps between the first set of dots, and then goes to the next line after going back to the front again. When it's printing, you can hear it; when it's returning it is silent -- this is obviously wasted time. But when it's in draft mode, it'll print a line left-to-right, then line feed without a carriage return, and print right-to-left. It goes back and forth. When printing like this, there is no audible delay between lines -- it's continuous. Similarly, which is easier (and faster): drawing row's of lines drawn from left to right, or drawing a zigzag?

This is why (in my journal, anyhow) I write one line with my right hand, left-to-right, and then the next line right-to-left with my left hand. My handwriting isn't the best with my left hand -- okay, it isn't the best with my right hand either :) -- but it's getting the practice now that it missed when I was learning to write.

[Editor's Note: Upon further investigation, I discovered that the Greeks invented a similar writing style. I didn't know about this when I started writing the way I do. They combined the Phoenician style of writing right-to-left with their own left-to-right style, and alternated between them every line. It was called boustrophedon. (I have been informed that the Hittites were using this writing style before the Greeks, but much of their language and culture is not understood, and since "boustrophedon" is a Greek word, I will continue to refer to the writing style as Greek as well.) Of course, it wasn't English... So I guess what I use is an English version of -- or a hybrid of English and -- boustrophedon...]

If you still don't get it, look at this screen shot, to see what it looks like.

Starting your own journey

Well, I think the first thing I learned to do with my left hand that I could already do with my right hand was snapping. I was hangin' out with a friend of mine one day, and he was snapping -- with both hands. I was a bit amazed, and asked him about it, and he said that it was just one of those things he wanted to be able to do with both hands. So for the next week I went around snapping (or trying to) every time I would've been fidgetting with something else (which, consiquenty, was a lot). Now I can snap with both hands equally. If you wish, you can start with something as simple as this. But, whatever...

One way you can start is my writing. Yes, it is one of the hardest and precise things you'll ever have to do, but the sooner you start on it, the sooner you'll get good at it. It took you years to write decently with your dominant hand, it may take you years to write well with the other hand. Fortunately it may take less time, as you can transfer your knowledge and experience to the other hand. Mirror the exact motions of the other hand for each letter, and you'll do fine. All that's left to do is develop the muscles, i.e. practice. I wouldn't suggest doing your homework with my methoud, but a journal (something you use almost every day, and no one else has to read) is a perfect thing to write in. And those of us who do more typing than writing, a journal is about the only opportunity we have to write on a regular basis. If writing is way too uncomfortable for you to start with, then start small.

Just change your outlook on things. Don't automatically use your dominant hand 'cause you're used to it. At least consider the possibility of using the other hand. Then you can try brushing your hair or your teeth. They are uncomfortable, but also are basic movements that you can improve on in just a week's time if you do it every day. When I brush my hair I flip my hair over my right shoulder and brush with my left hand. Then I flip it over my left shoulder and brush with my right hand. This way I'm less likely to get frustrated, as I'm getting it done, yet still using my left hand. If you wash windows try switching off hands, or wipe with one and dry with the other.

But remember to keep the motions mirrored when you can. If you wipe counter-clockwise with your right hand, dry clockwise with your left hand. If you try to mimic the direction as well as the motion, it'll be twice as uncomfortable, and it won't be using the same muscles. But that's not to say that if you can't mirror it, not to do it. I know it isn't always possible to mirror the other hand, so you'll have to settle with mimmicing the absolute direction/motion. Computer mice, for example: For a 2- or 3-button mouse, one might want too swap the outer buttons to retain mirrored motions. Unfortunately, most operating systems do not make this setting changable on-the-fly (such as with a hot-key), and others do not offer it at all. Even when it is available, it isn't always desirable, as others may get confused when giving you assistance. [This comment is quite ironic, seeing that I use Dvorak.] I have personally been using absolute button positions for so long, I'm not sure I would want to switch. Especially when I trade hands so often.

Also, if you're not good at something, or if you're just learning something new, take advantage of the opportunity. Practice, from the beginning, with both hands. That way neither one will be ahead of the other, in that particular activity. Plus, you'll have the advantage of being able to do the job with either hand (or both, which can make things easier). I, for instance, am not very good at pool. I can get a perfect shot and still mess it up. And to be honest, altho I'm more comfortable with my right hand holding the back of the pool stick, I'm actually not that much worse using my left hand. So I should practice with both. There are times when you just can't make a shot -- even a perfectly set-up shot just waiting to be made -- even if you sit on the table... unless you were to use the other hand. And it'll be easier to learn to use both now, then to use one and then struggle to re-learn with the other hand.

The trick is just to keep at it, and to do it on a regular basis. And don't try to take on too many at once -- you may get frustrated and give up. Know your limits. If you must, start with one task such as brushing your hair, and once you are getting better at it and more comfortable with it, add another. Soon they will require little conscious thought, and will become automatic. Just keep in mind your goal: to become ambidextrous; equally skilled, strong, limber and able, with either hand.

For me, I just keep on imagining the day when someone will ask me "Are you right-handed or left-handed" and I can honestly answer "Yes."





These pages, tho lacking coherance, structure & spellcheck -- being the ramblings of the deranged --
are copyrighted material and may not be reproduced without prior permission from the author.
Copyright © 1998-2007, Simmon Keith Barney, All Right Reserved.
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Kopirajto © 1998-2007, Simmon Keith Barney, Cxiuj Rajtoj Rezervitaj.