Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In My Right Mind


The “Man of the Century,” Albert Einstein had a brain that was not much different than the ones us regular mortals carry around. His neuronal connections between the right and left brain were more numerous; he could synthesize, or integrate information much better than most people. Even though the brains of most remarkable people have not been studied like Einstein’s was, we are safe to assume that their brains were also better at synthesizing. Leaders like Buddha, Christ, Gandhi, Newton and many others probably integrated information between the right and the left brain exceptionally well.

As you know, the left brain is wired for logic, spatial orientation, linear thinking, and pretty much everything related to excelling in science and, in general terms, all the things that males are presumably more interested in. The right brain is better for visual tasks, art, music, cooperation, communication, loving and spiritual things; again, in general terms the right brain is more developed in females. Of course, both brains working together is best, as noted above. Integrators, then, seem to maximize their potential through networking their neural pathways better than the man in the street.

I didn’t know any of this when I was right handed in grade school. So, my decision to develop my left hand was motivated by vanity and practicality. After watching a right-handed classmate struggle with a cast on his right arm and fall behind in his school work, I began to use my left hand exclusively. Soon, I became an honorary lefty, even on the soccer pitch. After a few years, my interest in the spiritual world, already fairly strong, since I wanted to be a Jesuit priest while growing up, seemed to get even stronger. Several “otherworldly experiences” solidified my conviction that the unseen is much more important than the material world, often the former giving rise to the latter.

Now, as I look back on my life, having achieved a bit using my left brain, I wonder how much more active my right brain has been by forcing it to work harder since childhood, when I chose to be a lefty. It seems intuitive and logical, that emphasizing the left side of the body will strengthen the right side of the brain; after all, physics postulates that all relationships work bi-directionally.
While it is obvious I will not achieve the lofty heights attained by more advanced integrators, I would like to think that in a more humble manner, my brain did become more synthesizing. But, as much as I have loved and benefitted from science and logic, I choose my right mind to guide me, just like De Saint Exupery tells us: “It is only with the heart that one can see clearly; what is important is invisible to the eye.” (The Little Prince.”)

Our society has been ruled by logic with mixed results. “Learned men and women” have led us into wonderful technological achievements, but also into disastrous wars, economic messes and thorny social problems. Would our society be any different if we were lead by the right brain, and by our hearts? Would a people more given to cooperation, instead of competition be more fair and kind? Most of us would answer yes.

In that society we would achieve a better balance between “justice and mercy” thereby forgiving the “fallen” Salt Lake City Zen Master and would not have put him on an impossible pedestal in direct misunderstanding of his equalitarian teachings. We would also show more mercy towards Brandon Davies, the BYU basketball player or for that matter any student or person honestly engaged in learning ethical principles. We would focus more on teaching and less on punishment. And most importantly, we would rejoice in caring for the downtrodden, the homeless and otherwise disadvantaged to improve our society while “in our right mind.”

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