If right is right, is left wrong?
Did you hear about the guy who lost his left ear, his left eye, his left arm, his left leg, in fact the whole of his left side?
He's all right now!
There are many references in the Bible about the righteous sitting at God's right hand. But why not the left?
There's no 'handism' in Hamsa
Of course there is no right or left "up there"; the references we see in the Bible about the righteous sitting at God's right hand just reflect the way people thought when the Bible was written.
Then, as today, the right hand is considered to be 'special' in some way.
Even for left-handed people, the right hand is used for 'righteous' duties, such as greeting another with a handshake, saluting, raising the hand to take an oath, or making the Sign of the Cross. Etymologically, left is related to twisted, crooked and sinister, whilst the word right (-hand) has the same Old-European root as right (correct).
The majority of people (around 90%) are right-handed; a trait called lateralisation, which is found in animals, birds, fish and even the antenna of insects, as well as humans. The right hand tends to be used more, is consequently stronger and by extension, righteous.
On the other hand, left has a negative image: weak, something that is left behind, left alone, leftover.
And this is found the world over. Some cultures believe it is better to use the left hand when using the toilet. In Japanese, hidarimaki means somebody's ideas are a bit twisted, spiralling from right to left.
(You can see this stained glass window of Jacob blessing his grandsons Maneesh and Ephraim in the memorial window of William Stewart (d. 1886) in the Cathedral Church of All Saints, Wakefield, West Yorkshire.)
For a couple of thousand years, Christian theology has said that we have all inherited the original sin of Adam – "sin" being the ultimate in not being right. More recently (19th century) science showed that the amino acids we inherit from our ancestors are all left-handed. Coincidence? (Probably.)
In 1789, following the Scriptures, nobility sat themselves on the right-hand side of the president in the French National Assembly, leaving the left-hand side for the commoners. From this, we have the 'right wing' and 'left wing' in political speech.
The majority of right-handed people are cruelly oblivious to the plight of those who are left to suffer the handism in equipment design, from chain saws to guitars, vending machines to wrist watches, and can-openers to camcorders.
Since most people walking a horse use their right to hold the lead rope, they walk on the left of the horse. It is less stressful for the horse, and more convenient for the rider, to mount the horse from the same side. Therefore mounting horses from the left became the standard.
The custom of mounting a bicycle from the left was a natural progression, which led to the bicycle's kickstand being placed on the mounting side, and the chain being located on the other side. (The kickstand is also on the left of motorbikes, even in countries where people drive on the right, which means parked bikes lean into the traffic and riders mount/dismount on the traffic side.) Lifting a bicycle whilst standing on its left means more work for the lifting (right) arm, disadvantaging left-handed people.
There are, of course, less righteous issues in life.
If you are left-handed, you probably notice handedness more than others, such as the location of a flush handle on the W.C. Yet as W.C. Fields said:
"If the left side of your brain controls the right side of your body, and the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body, then left-handed people must be the only ones in their right minds."
William Claude Dukenfield (1880-1946)
Bible references for "sitting at God's right hand": Ps. 110:1-5, Matt. 25:31-46, Mark 14:60-62, Mark :19, Acts 2:33, 5:30-31, 7:55-56, Rom. 8:34, 1 Cor. 15:24-26, Eph. 1:20-22, Heb. 8:1, 10:12-13, 12:2, 1 Pet. 3:22
Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907)