#0020 Conservatives and progressives think differently (part IV)

…for all the brain’s complexity, its broad topography is simple and symmetrical. And until surprisingly recently, the scientific establishment considered the two regions separate but unequal. The left side, the theory went, was the crucial half, the half that made us human. The right side was subsidiary—the remnant, some argued, of an earlier stage of development. The left hemisphere was rational, analytic, and logical—everything we expect in a brain. The right hemisphere was mute, nonlinear, and instinctive—a vestige that nature had designed for a purpose that humans had outgrown.

A Whole New Brain (Part One Chapter One: Right Brain Rising): Copyright © 2005, 2006 by Daniel H. Pink

In today’s post we are turning our attention to the right hemisphere of the brain and the special abilities it has. We will also talk about how these differ from those abilities of the left hemisphere; and how the brain is smart enough to allow them to work in concert with each other. The brain knows that in its ability to coordinate its two hemispheres it can best serve the body. To reestablish our bearings here is a review of the Daniel Pink excerpt from the previous post.

  1. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body; the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body.
  2. The left hemisphere is sequential; the right hemisphere is simultaneous.
  3. The left hemisphere specializes in text; the right hemisphere specializes in context.
  4. The left hemisphere analyzes the details; the right hemisphere synthesizes the big picture.

The left converges on a single answer; the right diverges into a Gestalt [a structure, arrangement, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts]. The left focuses on categories, the right on relationships. The left can grasp the details. But only the right hemisphere can see the big picture.

 A Whole New Brain (Part One Chapter One: Right Brain Rising): Copyright © 2005, 2006 by Daniel H. Pink

Like before, the bolding and italics below are mine. Progressives are R-Directed in their thinking which means the right hemisphere, according to Daniel Pink, dominates their thinking processes:

  • the right hemisphere diverges into a Gestalt [an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts].
  • the right hemisphere [focuses] on relationships.
  • The right hemisphere synthesizes the big picture.

In the last posting it was mentioned that throughout history the hemisphere of the brain society seemed to favor was the left. Because of this the events that most dramatically shaped history were navigated and forged by L-Directed Thinkers. We talked a little about how this L-Directed bias has affected the tenor of our modern-day society. We also touched on how the Christian narrative has been deeply colored by our L-Directed forefathers. If this is true (and Daniel Pink’s book says that it is); it begs the 2-part question: What were the R-Directeds doing through all of this; did they have anything of value to contribute? That’s a real good question and one worthy of many long, in-depth discussions, I would think. My gut tells me that the R-Directed thinkers spent much those early days living in the much more prominent shadow of the L-Directeds; or their names might very well have been found on some very long L-Directed s**t-list. Remember, it was out of the minds of L-Directed persons or committees that things like the Bible, religious doctrines and eventually the plethora of Christian denominations were concocted. You might say that L-Directedness is the hallmark of convention. Wouldn’t it sort of follow then that the R-Directed thinkers were the ones that all of this spiritual organization was aimed at. Were the heretics and women labeled as witches, dabblers in the sciences, and countless others who asked too many questions and too often colored outside the lines of convention; all of those known as well as those unknown to history but were counted in their day as nothing more than a blight on the societies in which they lived—were these the R-Directeds and was this the sum and substance of their contribution to humanity? Is making trouble for or getting in the way of the L-Directeds; is this the R-Directeds’ rightful place in history?!

This might be a good time to list some of the troublemakers from the past. Galileo: scientist and well-known heretic of the mid-16th – mid-17th century. He made major improvements to the telescope so that he could study the heavens. Using his invention he learned much about the stars and was hassled by the Catholic Church for telling others about his findings. Evidently, what he was learning about outer space was incongruent with what the L-Directed church fathers’ much more weighty Biblical truths. Eventually (200+ years later), the Catholic Church came around to accepting the fact that their interpretation of scriptures concerning the workings of the universe was wrong and that Galileo’s scientific findings about it was right. Other examples include Joan of Arc; Charles Darwin; Martin Luther; MLK; Abe Lincoln; George Washington, et al; Gandhi; and Jesus. All of these people were R-Directed thinkers and their ideas got them into trouble with the L-Directed authority-figures of their day. All on this list are people who managed to impact their cultures and on a larger scale the course of mankind itself. Most of them were rewarded for their efforts with the forfeiture of their lives, some narrowly escaping that fate. Each had more than his/her share of enemies at the time of their struggles for their enemies stood in defense of convention, while their own, R-Directed ideals brought them up against those  conventions and conventional beliefs of the time.

Long story short, a recurring pattern throughout all of history seems to be: societies or kingdoms are initiated or conquered by L-Directed thinkers; these societies eventually become psycho-socio-politically corrupted, stagnated and/or otherwise dysfunctional; the level of dysfunction rises to a boiling point; many people get victimized by the dysfunction and come to realize some sort of reform is needed; at this stage some crazy SOB comes on the scene who sees things differently and is able to rally others to the cause of his/her vision; some campaign for social reform is launched and through great effort, the vision becomes realized and things get set upon a better course. These crazies whose brains seemed to be primed and opened to the concept of change and were flexible and adaptable enough to envision a way forward, a way out of the dysfunction would invariably be an R-Directed thinker.

So we see that the world has always needed and utilized both L-directed and R-Directed thinkers. What if we as a human community would come out of the gate as equals, valuing one another for our different gifts and abilities and synthesize them just like our individual brains do. In the next installment I want to talk about how we each come to be L and R-Directed: are we born that way or is it learned behavior ? Before we end today I want to leave you with an analogy. In the culinary arts seasoning is a big factor in creating a dish or recipe that’s exceptional. The use of, say cilantro or cyan pepper can be the secret ingredient that would put a dish over the top in excellence; but if too much is used, even a little bit too much, it will dominate the recipe and all is lost. The same holds true with a society which is a collection of people—of wonderful souls who’ve been brought into proximity for some reason or purpose. What we’ve been talking about in this post is how one kind of personality has and does dominate the flavor of an entire group. Often times this happens without anyone even realizing it. Certain ideas that are more tangible or basic are more often than not L-Directed in nature. These ideas which are commonly expressed more loudly and colorfully tend to get out in front of the ideas other people have; other people who tend to be shy and more, introspective by nature. Many of these are the R-Directed thinkers. They are the meat and carrots, celery and potatoes in the pot of stew that is your community. The conspicuous ones—dressed to the nines and very comfortable flashing their bling—these are the cyan peppers in the stewpot analogy. Too much of or the wrong kind of seasoning will adversely affect your whole dinner. The same phenomenon holds true for a gathering of minds, life-experiences and the persons affiliated with each. When the goal becomes the blending and stewing of all the ingredients; adding in just the right seasonings in just the right amounts, a Gestalt of tastes and textures will result.

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