The laboriously written sentence looked as if it had been scrawled by a five year old making their first attempt at joined up writing… or a centenarian making their last. The lines of the script were uncertain and badly formed, the flow stuttered and trembled across the page. Visions of drunken spiders crawling through spilled ink on the page…and my first teacher shaking her head and sighing. Writing left-handed really isn’t easy when your right hand is dominant.
It had been an experiment. I, who write longhand every day, who wield both pen and brush with confidence and for whom the written word is a delight… had felt completely at a loss the moment the pen was in the ‘wrong’ hand. It did not feel right… I didn’t even know how to hold the thing to make a mark on the paper. The spatial orientation felt all wrong. The visibility of the forming words was different. I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to write anything with my left hand. There was no pressure… nothing was hanging on my ability to do so. Even so, the physical ‘wrongness’ of the attempt induced a feeling of panic. The unfamiliarity of the action of hand and pen demanded all my concentration and the single phrase, that had taken seconds with my right hand, took over a minute to write.
I was, therefore, surprised by the result….it was at least legible. All the letters were there, if a bit on the wonky side. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I had expected, drunken spiders aside, though it had none of the confidence of my usual script. Even so, it just proved that the panic had been unfounded and that you can learn new skills at any age if you have to or choose to. I progressed from left handed writing to carpentry, via cookery, plumbing and sewing and then got the paint out for some cosmetic decorating. I’m far from being a handywoman, but you do what needs to be done and if you don’t know the right way, you find a way.
Human beings are incredibly adaptable. Which is probably just as well.
Flexibility and adaptability rank high on the preferred list of attributes sought by employers. When you consider the breadth of skills required these days in any form of employment, you can understand why. The incredible array of tasks and technologies we handle every day is simply mid-boggling when you look a little more closely than usual. The complex sequences of actions we have learned in order to do what seem to be the simplest tasks run into thousands. We accept new technologies, adopting them and bringing them into our lives almost without thought. Within half a lifetime, even our household appliances have gone from being powered by flame and elbow grease to the automation of electricity and electronic circuitry. People who remember the first televisions now communicate via a global network of computers, enjoying video calls across the world while our voices are bounced around space as radio waves almost instantaneously as we talk on our mobile phones. And we don’t bat the proverbial eyelid.
Right from the start we are teaching our children to use the vast potential at their disposal. Through play, with bricks and shapes, songs and silly games, babies are learning to problem-solve, observe, think and create. We teach our children to read and write, perform complex mathematical operations and speak foreign languages… as well as to engage their creative imagination, opening the world for them to explore.
Our capacity to create and embrace change is truly amazing.We seem to take little note of it, simply accepting each forward step as another part of the way we work. Maybe we should pause to take stock every so often and realise what an unbelievably brilliant vehicle we have been given in our body, brain and mind.
Instead, as soon as we are faced with a new challenge like picking up a pen in the other hand, or facing a change in direction, there is that frisson of fear, wondering if we can do it.
Maybe we need that fear… maybe the adrenaline fuels our attempts at that ‘something new’. Does it aid our concentration or does it serve to pull our attention right into the moment so that we can achieve what is needed, by bringing the body, mind and emotions into a sharp and collaborative focus?
Like the points of a triangle, each equidistant from the centre and of equal importance, these three facets of ourselves must be brought to bear on anything we do, with each taking precedence as required. There is a fourth point though, removed from these three, yet intimately linked… and that is the hub that retains its stillness at the centre; a point of balance at the heart of being.
That kernel of stillness is always there, the source and centre of all we do and all we are, whether we are aware of it or not. If we learn to consciously act that point of inner balance, what could we achieve, both as individuals and as a species?