Developing the Mind

I have developed my mind quite a lot (re. the video below) and I think it’s a good thing. My belief for a long time has been that the so-called “right brain” part of the mind contains the more basic inherited human characteristics. That means we can’t change them or lose them — they are built in to our bodies, and it’s better to use them well.

From what we know up to now, these basic qualities seem to be the emotional realities that have been so elegantly studied by Buddhism over the centuries, plus I think the stages of mourning and of meditation are inherent human qualities.

I learned long ago that any major culture shock requires at least (and about) a year to accomplish to the point of acceptance of the new reality, and I do believe that the stages of this accomplishment are those same stages that have been described for overcoming grief. The stages of grief (or other big change): Denial, bargaining (this is efforts at control), sorrow and grief, and finally acceptance.

The development of the “right brain,” that is discussed in the below post and elsewhere, I assume, means that there are ways to balance these inborn traits so that they serve us well, both at the individual level and at the population level of human reality.

Development of the “left-brain” traits – I’m more familiar with that. This aspect of our lives complements the “right” by making day-to-day sense of it until we grow it into our world view. Again, the survival value is that we are able to use and direct our experiences and learning to direct our behaviors toward greater good, both for the individual and for the community. Because there is a law of cause and effect in the universe to which we must adhere if we are to survive. The law of cause and effect is the root level of both evolution and sustainability.

Evolution and sustainability are intimately intertwined, so that any effort to generate a “shift” in our culture that is sustainable absolutely requires that we understand what (and why) certain behaviors are (or are not) culturally sustainable within life as it does function (not as we wish it functioned). We use our left-brain skills to understand how life does function so we can conform to its reality.

Remember, the left-brain skills are largely learned. If you are delving deep into the right brain to solve your problems, you are only using half your potential for good in the world of today. Because there is so much technology, if we want to generate love and compassion, it is essential that we learn to understand, on a left-brain level, what is likely to be the long term global result of our individual love and compassion (in action). Love is not enough.

We must understand how our love interacts with human need, for good or for ill. Or there can be no compassion, because compassion is the intersection of loving others and acting for the welfare of others.

Love is not enough. In fact, it’s the easy way out. We need to LEARN what the other requires, especially if the other does not have the same inborn instincts that we have, we must learn how it does function to be well and healthy. Otherwise, considering the level of human power on this earth today — our behaviors are likely to cause more harm than good.

Unfortunately we live in a culture that is stuck in denial and bargaining; rather than accepting reality, we are obsessive in our desire to control it. Humans can not control universal realities, but to the extent that the whole culture is based in denial of that reality — “everyone” is doing it, as a lifestyle, and so “no-one” can see that it is not reality. It feels normal.

It’s not normal for humans to stay stuck forever in denial of the reality of who we are and what we can’t have, combined with bargaining for the power to have it. That’s where we are today, and our power is enough to crash our culture and our ecosystem if we can’t see the reality of what the culture and the ecosystem need in order to be sustainable.

Left-brain skills are required. Right brain skills are also required. We will need our whole brain to grow out of the mess that we are in. Confining our development to one or the other and then working very hard, or very lovingly, to bring these to our culture. This behavior does not create love and compassion. It creates conflict, envy, competition, and deep, deep grief when we discover that our dreams were built on the sand of denial.

Bare Bones Biology 107 – Right, Left, or Wrong?

Warning – my use of the terms right-brain and left-brain in this blog is almost entirely metaphorical, and not scientifically precise. But I hope you’ll get the point.

In my career as a semi-faculty person there was a time when I needed support from the other women in my academic institution. But there weren’t any other women scientists, barring one or two who had problems of their own. So I turned to the women of the social sciences for support and the rest of that story is long and tedious, and though it was very successful, you don’t want to hear about that.

In the meantime, it seemed to me that my liberal arts supporters didn’t understand what I was talking about much of the time. It evidently seemed to them that they DID understand, and so I set out to improve myself. I began to attend seminars on the social science side of campus, in addition to the science side, and what a shock that was. It wasn’t the words – not even the specialized vocabulary, which is easy enough to learn if one makes the effort. It was how we think differently; how they don’t think like I think.

I am talking about how a scientist thought about her subject in those days. Now it has changed again, and most of what they call science is really technology, but that only deepens the divide. And I’m talking about how a social scientist thought about her subject. I found it to be – not a different way of talking, but a different way of thinking.

Think about it. The intuitive, fluid, “right-brain” sort of thinking, recognizes the importance of emotion in the whole construct, and instinct, and therefore has very few numbers to guide its logic. But that’s the way it must be, because social scientists are basically studying people. The hard sciences — there is a reason they are called the hard sciences, and it’s not because they are difficult. In many ways they are easier, if that’s how one learns to think. Linear, crisply defined, boxed-in, precise scientific thinking. Because that’s how the universe appears to us to function, scientific logic is best suited to the study of subjects that are outside the control of the human mind. The molecular structure of water, or the sequence of genes in a chromosome. These things lend themselves to “left-brain” sort of thinking. Unfortunately, we generally do not recognize these right brain/left brain differences, and when academicians say “critical thinking skills,” they are almost invariably talking about right-brain skills. I have found it easier for the students to the more direct and straightforward critical thinking skills through science, and then graduate to the more difficult, fluid, questions addressed by the liberal arts.

There was an age when we taught both skills to all the students. I was required to take two years of liberal arts before beginning my training in science. That seems like day before yesterday. And then the pendulum swung far to the left (brain) and it seems just yesterday that science overtook the liberal arts, and then technology took over science and helped to create modern left-brain economics. When this was taken to the extreme our human values were swallowed up, and so we developed a corposystem that is now trying to recreate life itself in our human image.

I suppose it is in reaction to these excesses that today the pendulum is swinging all the way back toward the right brain. It seems like we are currently engaged in a battle between those on the right (brain) and those on the left (brain). Just today I learned that the right (brain) is taking a stand (again) in Tennessee, where all the schools will now be required to use inappropriate right-brain critical thinking skills to evaluate hard core science in the classrooms. Folks, the universe does not operate on right(brain) human skills and neither does the corposystem, although it’s happy to take advantage of what it knows about these. It would be better if we understood the world we live in. Right, wrong and left.

And I have an even better idea. Why not everyone learn to use BOTH right brain logic AND left brain logic and also learn where each approach is most useful to our common welfare.

Bare Bones Biology 107 – Right, Left, or Wrong?
KEOS-FM 89.1
Audio available here
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