Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Evolution in Real-Time #2

I hurt my foot doing something Yesterday.  It could have been due to digging my left foot into a crevice on the ceiling of an overhang and using it to secure the majority of my body weight in a stable position parallel to the ground as I let go of my right hand causing me to swing out from under the precipice of the overhang and reach with that same hand for the next hold.  Or it could have been due to my running back to my office to retrieve some documents I forgot for my 2 pm class, causing the lower part of my left inner Soleus muscle (anyone feel free to correct me here) to stretch more than it has since high school, yet this over-extension not showing up in the form of pain until I was upside down with my left foot wedged into a wall wondering how the hell am I going to get down from here and out of this pain.

However I sliced it, it hurt.  And the pain stayed all through the night into this morning.  As I was limping from bed to kitchen to make breaky, and from kitchen to bathroom to brush teethy, and from bathroom to bed to get ready; I was thinking one thought, "How I am to get to work?  Can I make the 40 minute walk in this condition?"  I decided to try walking and as I was looking for which umbrella could substitute best as a cane, Amy looked at me a little confused.

"James, it is clear as Mars outside.  Why the umbrella?"

I told her about my foot and her confusion instantly turned to compassion. 

With a hug and a kiss and some holy water and garlic for good luck, I was off.

Here is the evolution part.

As anyone would do, I started walking how I have walked my entire life - an interchange of steps between my left and right foot, each step mirroring the other in the same way; first my heel touches the ground, then I shift my weight forward causing the sole of my foot to naturally flatten onto the street, continuing to shift my weight beyond this point, causing first, my heel to naturally lose contact with the earth, then my sole, finally leaving only my big toe (and possibly his sidekick) in contact with the earth.  It is at this point my big toe (and possibly his sidekick) exert enough energy in the form of the contraction of the left inner Soleus muscle,
to send my foot forward enough for my thigh muscles to take my foot the rest of the way to the front of my body, with the heel ready to start the process again.  

Now, it doesn't matter how accurate this description is and whether it can be generalized to the common public way of walking, it just needs to work for me.  This is how my brain interpreted  the process after walking for about 200 yards and bending over in pain as the thought of hopping into a taxi became more and more Lucid.   

For some reason I didn't though.  Instead, what happened was quite exciting.  

Without any critical thought beyond how to stop this pain while I walked, I noticed the pain was located on the inner left side of my foot, right above the ankle.  This seemed a highly localized type of pain.  And with problems that only exist in a specific locality, one must only change focus to another locality and the problem will go away - at least for a short time; which is all I needed to get my ass to work.

I thought if I could move the stress caused by walking the old way, to a place where it never has been, I could possibly avoid the pain long enough to make it to work.  A Kinesthetically induced anesthesia.

I noticed that when I put all the pressure on my big toe (and possibly his sidekick) the pain was at its worst, localized right above the inner ankle of my left foot.  What occurred with near zero conscious effort was I would slowly try to walk in a way that reduced using the big toe to the point where I was walking like a hunchback with a cane.  I would ensure the entire sole of my foot never touched the ground but instead only the part opposite of the arch, or, according to this diagram,
the proximal end of the 5th metatarsal, and as I continued to move my weight forward it would not be my big toe, but my pinky toe (and possibly his sidekick) that would be the last to leave the earth.  This would then ensure the muscle used to exert the foot forward would be the same Soleus muscle, but on the outside of my left foot.  (please refer to the first image of this article).  Viola!!!  Muscle in-use re-localized, pain avoided!!!!

I do not need to tell you how I looked.  I will leave that up to your imagination.  There was an initial period of about 2 blocks where I was a little slow and awkward as I got my bearings with this new way of walking, but soon I was walking past all the old men and their dogs like I was 32 years old again.  I didn't even need to use my umbrella cane.

The interesting thing about this experience, and why this article has the above title, is that, similar to any creature taking part in evolution by means of natural selection, I was presented with a new environment to which I needed to adapt else I would die (be late to work).  I had options of adapting through artificial interventions (the taxi), but instead I adapted through natural interventions (being sensitive to the pain and changing walking position accordingly).  Now this is not an amazing feet if considered in the context of just humans.  We all do this every time there is a new environment to which we can't avoid (I just finished peeing, do I wash my hands or is my crouch clean enough?).  We just usually do it subconsciously.  This is the power of the human mind that we take for granted.  For creatures with a lesser developed mind, it would take generations of them dying due to walking the exact same way until either their foot fell off and they bled to death or they were consumed by something that could finally catch up.  Some freak variation of this creature would randomly decide to walk differently, which would allow it to walk better, and survive longer, and have more kids, who also would walk in this freaky way.  This process would take generations of this species of creature, yet I, a human, did it in about 2 blocks.

Thank you for wasting your time with me. 

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