Fantasy and science fiction fans are accustomed to extraordinary beings. We expect such things. Star Trek introduced an alien race of blue bipeds. Farscape one upped them with a sentient species of blue plants. How’s that for fantastic? Creatures with tentacles, tails, and antennae have parade by. The general human body is boring.
Or not? Take a fresh look at people on Earth and wake up to the fantastic appearance of the human body.
Our universe seems to like spheres. Stars, planets, atoms – all spheres. Simple bacteria? Spheres.
But life likes variety. Life breaks out of mundane circles; it elongates the sphere into an oval.
Homo sapiens? Well, we don’t roll around like tumbleweeds. We be elongated. But wait… Our species has the audacity to stand upright on only two of its angular limbs.
Where do humans get this standing on the flat of their feet? Dogs, if they thought about it, would wag their heads. Too much wasted leg confined to the ground. Hoofed animals will have none of it. No wonder we’re slow as compared to the horse or the cheetah.
Then there’s the foot itself, like the body didn’t quite know how to end and so simply attached on some peculiarities called toes. And why five? Four, six, or eight are more common numbers in nature. You might ask how I would have ended the body at the ground. Hmm… I don’t know. Let’s simply wear our shoes.
Next, I point you to the wonder of the arm and its own end, the hand. What a miraculous appendage! The opposable thumb is a genius in design. Added to that is the notion of storing most of the hand muscles in the forearm and using slender tendons to attach the power to those wildly jointed fingers. This allows the hand to be unencumbered by excess bulk.
Why, it’s almost like Someone planned it.
Another thing: In tandem, two hands more than double the function of each. That’s convenient for civilization.
All these limbs attach to a strange structure we call the torso. No sphere here either. The torso is more like a small mattress with four sticks and a globe we call a head sticking off it. The torso’s center is a spine stacked like a wobbly column and is required to support the upper body without help from any other bones. I don’t know that any engineer would have thought of that.
But wait, the torso gets more bizarre. Humans, being mammals, have that most distinctive thing called mammary glands. The concept of a mother animal feeding her children from an organ is beyond what any fantasy or science fiction author would ever have imagined on his own. Furthermore, in the male half of the species these are useless.
Then over the entire torso we throw clothes, a unique idea among the species on Earth.
It’s just as well. Other warm-blooded vertebrates have hair or feathers.
What is the deal with human hair?
The concept of skin is easy enough. All organisms need some kind of casing to denote, “Here I start,” and, “Here I end.” Otherwise we’d be strewn all over the place.
But small filaments coming out of skin is a stretch of imagination. Hair might be quite functional for temperature control, but how could anyone have thought of that from scratch?
Yet that’s not the real oddity with human hair. The quirk is humans don’t have much of it. Any mammal other than the armadillo or the naked mole rat might wonder what disease had caused such rampant hair loss. The hair humans do have comes in tiffs and tuffs, stuck in unusual and, quite frankly, embarrassing places. Then there’s a bulk of it plopped right on top of our globular heads.
Another thought: This head hair is not fur growing to a specified length then stopping. No, it just keeps on going and growing. Where else do you see that in nature? Weird.
I’ll make mention of the gender differences. Why would the male human grow hair on the chest but the female not? It’s not that anyone’s complaining, just a question. Furthermore, the male grows hair on his jaw, but the female face is smooth. What’s that all about? Again, no complaint, simply inquiring. Peacocks and peahens don’t differ that much from each other.
Which leads to another note: As odd as hair is, it comes in a frightfully limited amount of colors, especially as compared to feathers.
Head and Face
I come to the last and oddest part of the human body: The head and face. Sitting unceremoniously atop the body is a large knob. Bone encases a big, heavy brain. Skin stretches thin over the bone. That silly hair covers the skin. A rickety spine precariously balances the whole assembly using muscles coursing through the neck, a marvel itself of merging and crossing pipes ending at nose and mouth.
Being a dentist, I know the mouth as an especially unusual organ. We do a lot with it. Eat, drink, talk, sing, whistle, vomit, and even kiss. All with the same organ. Talking is a fascination, using the face and that protuberance we call a tongue jammed unceremoniously in the middle of the oral cavity.
And teeth? Little, white chompers out there for anyone to see or any accident to break. Hard, unhealing tissues exposed to the glut of assaults our diet and habits bring to them. Makes you want to floss, doesn’t it?
The oddities don’t stop. There’s that nose, a sculpted blob with two black holes pointing to the ground. On either side sit the delicate light and motion sensors we call eyes, separately and together a strong argument for design especially at the cellular level. And those crinkled ears consisting of folded up cartilage and skin stuck on the side of the head and mostly ignored when looking at beauty.
This brings me to the whole concept of beauty. There is within each of us an ability to look at another human and not to be repulsed. We’re even attracted to each other. Should it not be so? Otherwise, we might not have babies. (Babies are another subject altogether. Little plops of helpless flesh unconsciously beckoning to us though that peculiar idea of cuteness.)
All this amazing body and we still have an idea that our bodies are not quite the whole of us, not quite the sum total of our individual calculus. Certainly the Master Fantasy Author set the idea of eternity within this bag of flesh.