Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Here is the church, here is the steeple...

Itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout, down came the rain and washed the spider out. . .

This little piggie went to market, this little piggie stayed home, this little piggie. . .

Fingers and toes.

Yeah, I know. It's our brain that defines our humanity -- that gray stuff locked up in the strongbox of the skull. But it's with our fingers and toes that we begin our lives. Tugging. Sucking. Wriggling. Making rhymes.

In fact, it may have been our fingers and toes that made our brains what they are. Stroking. Grooming. Gesturing. Pointing. Holding tools. Hurling weapons. Activities that encouraged bigger, more versatile brains.

Before we were Homo sapiens we were Homo digitatis. Before we made looms and potter's wheels, we made cat's cradles. Before we invented geometry and algebra and calculus, we counted on our toes. Before we made harpsichords and flutes and tambourines, we put blades of grass between our fingers and blew.

Our hands and feet are our emissaries to reality. Computers may one day equal human intelligence in rational thought, but the light that turns on in a child's mind with "Itsy bitsy spider" or "This little piggie" is viscerally human in a way that programmed thought will never be -- a mind in joyful, tactile contact with the world.