Could you bite your finger in half like a carrot?

Written by Science

The most infuriating of the popular body myths: the idea that breaking off your finger requires the same force as breaking a carrot. It isn’t fascinating because it’s stupid; it’s fascinating because so many people believe it’s true. The survival of the myth requires we’re starved of a relationship with our physical form, and its time that’s changed.

Casual tests of the myth seem conclusive. Bite down on your finger and you will find nothing, just a little pain and a mark. Bite down on a carrot and you’ll find a mark and something new: progress! You may find gashes forming and a crackling of internal damage, a second bite of the same magnitude will surely bring a fatal incision.

Back to the finger and the mark has faded and the second bite will leave you as fruitless as the first. Here lies the first weakness in the theory: carrots have a fragility that humans do not. We can stretch and scab, massage wounds and watch them recover, but carrots are malleable in the way that any home cook will understand.

It’s mystifying that we know carrots better than ourselves; we know a carrot will snap with a little effort, but we don’t know the parameters of our own bodies. I could say pulling on your eyelids would be as easy as pulling off the lid of a milk bottle, or hiccupping and sneezing at the same time will cause instant death, there is no way of disproving it. We are, in fact as fragile as the body of a carrot; our eyes covered by our perceived slow unfolding of time and the insulation of modern, individualistic life.

We are animals that can be killed and will soon decay and die

Each of us require a mediation of our own bodies so we can see the wonder that it is; understanding its capabilities and limits so we can enjoy life to its full potential. Cars have ruined our relationship with space, windows with our love of listening to birds singing; it doesn’t take long to take a second to realise the capabilities of our physical form. It’s there, all there, constantly pumping, aging and ready to snap given some freak accident.

We hear of car crashes, bombings, hundreds dead or injured, but I’m sure not many know what this looks like. The human body really is as fragile as that bacon in the fridge; a sack of bone and flesh that can be turned to putty in a collision of two tons of metal on a motorway. Deaths through tragedy aren’t a bullet to the head; they’re a reckless, pummelling of the human form that doesn’t know the confinement of death or heed its wrath at the call of “Stop! He’s already dead!”

This may seem a terrifying, unnecessary reflection on the fragility of the human body but it is, in fact, infinitely empowering. We are animals that can be killed and will soon decay and die, so we each need to take up the space we have and use our bodies to their incredible potential, understanding every passing moment is a new one and every second is a new version of the body we had a second ago. No need to run a marathon or become a weightlifter, just feel your body and let yourself know your there. In the end, it’s worth living every second because the last one’s already gone.

Image: Wikimedia

Last modified: 2nd December 2019

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