The Bounty of Ambidexterity: Life Extending and Invigorating Better Than Viagra

“How many of us are ambidextrous?” asks Paul, an Onc and retired psychologist, during fellowship after church service (see Immortality Club, 8-2-2018,, looking around for a show of hands.

“Nobody,” he confirms. “That figures. Only 1% of the population is genetically so endowed and there are too few of us here to produce a sample. But left handers achieve quasi-ambidexterity due to social pressure and adaptation to equipment and facilities designed for right-hand use. So how many of us are lefties?”

Albert, a retired ophthalmologist, defiantly raises his hand, though superfluously because everybody already knows.

“Good, Al,” Paul cheers. “There is one like you in 10. You should be proud of your minority, because statistically as a group you are smarter, richer, and more successful, present company included. Eight of our 45 Presidents are left-handed, 18%, which is almost double your demographic weight of 10%. Apparently what may be called the sinister bias of society has worked to your advantage, giving you the drive to overcome.”

“I wish I had known about that,” regrets James. “I had high hopes for Angela, my first born. I wanted her to be the first female President. When we found her left-leaning at about age one, we firmly corrected her, switching the spoon or fork to the right hand. Same thing with crayon or pencil as she drew or wrote, poor girl. Eventually she became right handed, probably nixing her chances to be President.”

“A top Wall Street lawyer!” snorts Tom. “You have nothing to complain about her.”

“With the 8% nudge she could have been President but that’s water under the bridge. What I don’t get is that the orientation can be modified at all. If it’s genetically hemisphere-specific, it should remain unalterably so.”

“Apparently not,” Paul explains. “Just as the shape of the head can be modified with a corrective helmet, when young, like a few months old, the hemispheric specialization of manual dexterity can be altered. Not only in infancy but after maturity, as in the case of Peter Bach, the protagonist of The Polyglot: Union of Korea and Japan, I assume you guys have all read it.”

Heads nod, the result of arm twisting by Paul, its rave reviewer.

“But you are partly right,” he reassures James. “The original genetic orientation remains, because the modification is just that, modification. The left hand gains dexterity without wiping out that of the right. In other words, it’s transition from mono-dexterity to ambidexterity, not to another mono-dexterity. Peter Bach can use chopsticks with both hands, throw and push, or write with both. I bet Angela is both handed, too.”

“Maybe in sleep. Awake, she is strictly right.”

“Subconsciously she is both, even awake,” Paul insists. “Ambidexterity enables the person fuller use of both hemispheres. Angela’s success is due to your compulsion to correct her. So you’ve done nothing wrong, which reminds me of my main point. We should all teach ourselves to be ambidextrous. That includes you, Al. You have a head start over us but have some ways to go to be as ambidextrous as Peter Bach. Can you write with your right hand, for example?”

“No, I haven’t tried,” Albert replies.

“Time you did,” Paul suggests.

“What’s the point, though?” Albert dares him. “Peter, your hero, is in prison, under solitary confinement, with nothing else to do. He himself confesses that it is on a whim, just to see if he can do it, for no practical purpose.”

“What makes him such a consummate polyglot, diplomat, administrator, and peacemaker, a phenomenon of the century as Walter Cronkite of CBS says?” Paul retorts. “His ambidexterity gives him an intuitive panoramic perspective, balance and clarity of judgment.”

“Do you have stats on the 1% congenitally ambidextrous?” James asks. “They must be off the charts as rich and famous.”

“No, but my hunch is that acquired ambidexterity or quasi-ambidexterity gives us the advantage over the congenital, the same kind of advantage the lefties get, as we have to work for it, whereas when given at birth one is apt to take it for granted. The acquired ambidexterity opens up traffic between the left and right hemispheres, mobilizing the unused parts of each, a fact confirmed by my own practice: every patient taught to use the formerly gauche hand while the dominant hand is temporarily out of commission due to injury gets endorphin-soaked, brimming over with a sense of euphoria, liberation, a new lease on life. So I urge all of you to try.”

“You are talking to the wrong crowd, Paul,” objects Tim. “We are all Oncs, the terminals, with only a few more years left, if that. Peter Bach is less than half our age, in his late thirties, and has all the time in the world to shift from one hemisphere to another. Ours are frozen stuck, each in its place, with no prospect of crossover.”

“The bridge, corpus callosum, remains open and nothing blocks it, regardless of age. Just let the traffic start and the body will take over to complete the job. Even if there is only one year left to live, we should try it, as I have, after my open heart surgery. Bed-ridden, I tried to do more things with my left hand than right, recalling my clinical experience. The sensation of pleasure was immediate. I felt better, had a positive outlook on life, and my recovery was so rapid that the cardiologist couldn’t believe it. Besides there is some evidence, according to recent research, that acquisition of ambidexterity may be life-extending and even ED-reversing, more effectively than Viagra.”

“What’s a shaft good for with no hole to shove it in?” mutters Adam, a widower, sotto voce.

“Go jerk off,” Ralph, 102, much decorated and celebrated, rasps so loud that the whole hall hisses. “Get what you can.”

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