CAGAYAN DE ORO

Carrasco: Your Left Made It Right

Traverse

THERE is no denying that lefties are the odd men out. In a world where almost everything is designed for right-handed people, lefties have no choice but to struggle and prove they are at par with their right-handed counterparts. Left out and struggling...trying to find his or her rightful place and surely not a leftful place. Further, you will always be commended for making the right choices or choosing the right answer. There is no place for left answers nor left choices. Only the right moves bring you closer to being a righteous person. This might sound bitter, funny or a bit annoying. Let’s accept the fact that left-handed people are outnumbered by righties in almost any cluster... be it a social gathering, profession, congregation or any assembly. Hence, all the favorable ascription is also given to right-handedness.

Being a lefty since birth, I can only wish I was born right-handed. I love all the positive attribution to dextrorotatory individuals. As a matter of fact, the right hand is mentioned positively 100 times in the Bible while the left hand is mentioned only 25 times with negative undertones. Language with all its ambiguity has a seemingly clear distinction between left and right. Like when one takes a stand and fight for his rights...but when you have radical views you are called a leftist. Even as a growing child when I was just learning to scribble my name, I was always told being a lefty is bad. Almost like an omen...a curse...I got tapped when I held my spoon. I was being laughed of my clumsiness in handling tools and utensils. Nevertheless, I lived with it and retained my left-handedness.

I thought being a lefty was a handicap. I began to read articles about lefties and until now I am fascinated to learn that lefties are not odd but unique. We are special in a different way. Here are some of the interesting facts about left-handed people:

• Between 10 to 12 percent of people are “lefties.”

• Women are more likely to be right-handed than men by about four percent.

• The gene LRRTM1 is a strong contributing factor for left-handedness.

Scientists discovered the gene during a study of dyslexic children and believe it is inherited from the father.

• Mothers who are over 40 at the time of a child’s birth are 128 percent more likely to have a left-handed baby than a woman in her 20s.

You might say these statements are either fact or fallacy as myths about “lefties” continue to rock this modern world. Here are some of the intriguing myths on southpaws: Left-handers may die nine years earlier than right-handers. Among the Eskimos, every left-handed person is viewed as a potential sorcerer. In Morocco, left-handers are associated with either a devil or a cursed person. Moreover, more phrases in English suggest a negative view of left-handedness. A “left-handed compliment” is an insult. A “left-handed marriage” is not a marriage but an adulterous sexual liaison, as in a “left-handed honeymoon with someone else’s husband.” A “left-handed wife” is a mistress.

I am glad that in today’s era where vast information is almost a click away, left-handedness is far better understood. In the past, it was considered a problem. Faced with a right-handed society, many left-handed people were considered evil or wrong; many were punished and forced to use their right hands. This fear and misinformation have been slowly replaced with scientific understanding and increased awareness.

But what makes a person’s handedness? Society seems to favor the righteous person and not the “lefteous person”. According to new research findings, human beings have been predominantly right-handed for more than 500,000 years. Yet 10 to 12 percent of people prefer using their left hand — and scientists continue to probe the differences between that group and the right-handed majority, often with surprising results.

Handedness, as the dominance of one hand over the other is called, provides a window into the way our brains are wired. Typically in right-handers, the brain's left side is dominant. But this tendency doesn't hold up with lefties, as scientists previously believed. Some 70 percent of lefties rely on the left hemisphere for their language centers, a key brain function, says Metten Somers, a psychiatrist and researcher who studies brain lateralization at Utrecht University Medical Center in the Netherlands. This does not appear to present problems, scientists say.

Conclusively, favoring one side -- a result of something called lateralization of the brain -- was once thought to be a uniquely human trait linked to language. The ability to speak comes mostly from left regions of the brain. It is then assumed that this would correspond with increased motor control on the opposite or right side. In motor control, activity on one side corresponds to the opposite side of the brain. So this could explain why about 70 percent to 90 percent of people are right-handed. Genetics is also partially attributed to handedness. Right-handed parents only have a two percent likelihood of producing a left-handed child, while two left-handed parents have a 50 percent chance of having left-handed offspring, according to the Burlington News website. When twins are born, one of them is likely to be left-handed.

The issue could go on and on with more and more research on left and right-handedness. The “rightists” may continue to claim which is appropriate and acceptable, the myths could continue and may seem like a curse for “leftists” but they have slowly opened the eyes of everyone.

It is noteworthy to mention some lefties who have exceeded and proven their worth by going the extra mile. They have carved their names and excelled in their fields. The following are some of the famous personalities who are “lefties”: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Leonardo da Vinci, Fidel Castro, Martina Navratilova, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Larry Bird, Helen Keller, Tom Cruise. And the list goes on.

The battle cry goes on for left-handed people who comprise a small section of society, and have unique difficulties to overcome in their daily lives. With nearly 90 percent of people exhibiting right-hand dominance, left-handed people often function in a world built for someone else. Relatively, in a world that is almost built by “rightists” left-handers have been the subject of curiosity, stigma and even fear over the centuries. Modern researches, however, recognize the scientific importance of understanding why people use one hand or the other.

You might find us awkward or odd. Perhaps you might find us strange in using armchairs designed for righties. You have not been into our struggle of writing in spiral notebooks or ring binders....or the frustration we have for ATM slots which are always placed on the right...or this silly question every time we use the keyboard in desktops... ”why do number pads have to be always on the right?” It’s always a bit unfair yet we learned to live with it.

We form only a small fraction of the world’s population but somehow we learned to live in harmony with our “rightist” counterparts. Just like ebony and ivory in the piano keyboard or how night and day complement each other.

Left or right everything strikes a perfect balance. One cannot be in harmony without accepting that there is always another side to almost anything. The harmony of peace and war...the excitement of beginnings and endings...the battle of right and wrong...the struggle of left-handed people in a right-handed dominated world. Just wishing that a day will come when the rightist would say out loud: “Your left made it right.”


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