The knee is an evolutionary masterpiece that permits near flawless ambulation, the seemingly simple, yet preposterously complex act of kneeling. Without knees, we would never have been able to crouch in stillness behind flowering bushes, hide from predators who could out run, swim, and climb us. We would not have survived long enough for Sartre or Sushi, Pho or Ferlengetti, the Coliseum or even Kentucky Fried Chicken. But we are so dependent upon the knee that defects disrupt the whole endeavor. So vulnerable, that whole martial arts are designed to attack and twist joints, specifically the knee, rendering the recipient of a hold powerless. In jujitsu, a knee bar ends a confrontation in crippling fashion, if an attacker twists their hold beyond maximum extension or flexion. Fire a bullet into the knee, kneecapping as it is known, and you send a chilling message. At best, the victim limps and suffers the rest of their life. If too much damage is done from the toxic, deforming metal of a bullet, part or all of the leg surrounding the knee might need to be amputated, or the victim might bleed-out and die. To understand the knee, you must understand biomechanics, physiology, biology, biochemistry, anthropology, orthopedics, rheumatology, medical technology, occupational therapy, physical therapy—even psychology, gender—the list could go on.
And while part of me wants to digest it all, I really just want to be able to walk a bit less stiffly than your average horror movie zombie.
Rich Furman, PhD, is the author or editor of over 15 books, including a collection of flash nonfiction/prose poems, Compañero (Main Street Rag, 2007). Other books include Detaining the Immigrant Other: Global and Transnational Issues (Oxford University Press, 2016), Social Work Practice with Men at Risk (Columbia University Press, 2010), and Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles (Oxford University Press, 2012). His poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in Another Chicago Magazine, Chiron Review, Sweet, Hawai’i Review, Pearl, Coe Review, The Evergreen Review, Black Bear Review, Red Rock Review, Sierra Nevada Review, New Hampshire Review, Penn Review, and many others. He is professor of social work at University of Washington Tacoma. He is currently a student of creative nonfiction at Queens University’s MFA-Latin America program.