A small tale of human discovery

YourLifeChoices’ 91-year-old columnist Peter Leith is always thinking, and agitating, and exploring. He invites you to do this simple exercise, but says most people won’t.


Sit opposite a friend at a table or bench, with your elbows on the table. Place your left hand, palm up, open and totally relaxed on the surface between you … and then try to forget that it’s there.

With the fingers and thumb of your right hand, start to explore the upturned palm and fingers of the left hand of the person sitting opposite.

Feel each bone and joint of each finger and the thumb.

You will find there are four bones in each finger and three in the thumb. One joint of each finger and thumb is ‘buried’ in the meat of the palm of the hand. Nineteen bones in total.

There are, I believe, another 18 small bones of varying shapes and sizes buried in the mass of nerves, sinews, tendons and blood vessels that make up the palms of our hands.

Try to ‘feel’ for them.

While you’re about it, you might like to give some thought to the fact that you are exploring the most versatile tool on the planet today. It performs a huge range of movements, hundreds of times each day, without conscious thought from us … and without a single electronic sensor or smartphone app required.

I’ve found that very few people are able to complete this exercise. Why?

Would you be comfortable exploring the hand of a person sitting opposite you? And having them do the same with your hand? If not, why not?

Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to [email protected] and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.

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