I happened, by chance, to catch the radio show Hidden Brain hosted by Shankar Vedantam on National Public Radio over the weekend. His guest for the program was Doctor Iain McGilchrist. Dr. McGilchrist, a psychiatrist and researcher, talked about what the two hemispheres of our brains are all about.
Our left hemispheres are detail oriented. Things are only black and white and literal. Anger and irritability seem to reside mostly over here. The left controls the right side of our bodies.
In contrast, our right hemispheres are the founts of creativity and see the big picture. They know the importance of their neighbors on the left. Most emotions and the ability to understand nuance seem to be residents over here, and the right controls the left side of our bodies.
Granted, this is an extremely simplified definition of the workings of our brain hemispheres, gleaned by me from listening to this edition of Hidden Brain. A very important caveat is the two halves work together, joined by a bundle of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. The loss of functionality of one half can cause a myriad of problems and skewed information for an individual trying to navigate life, depending on which hemisphere is compromised.
Our brains are unbelievably complicated devices that we carry around with us every day of our lives. They define who we are, our interpretation of the world around us, appreciation of the arts, and everything we feel—from emotions through physical sensations. I was so impressed by listening to Dr. McGilchrist that I purchased his book Sunday night—The Master and the Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. What I read, so far, about our onboard controllers got an awed “wow” out of me. We are oblivious to so many activities happening in that resident of our noggins.
So, what does it mean for our creativity and writing it down? We’ve got the team working together toward amazing results. Those fantastic ideas we get from the right are translated into words in the correct order following the rules of the language we’re using, on the left. The consult of the two halves produces engaging stories and poems. The brain that comes along to read these creations needs both members of its team to decode the works.
Dr. McGilchrist mentioned the necessity of the brain team where music and poetry are concerned. The left has got you covered in interpreting the notation and parts of the music and the language of the poetry. The right backs you up with the appreciation of the melody and harmony conveyed by music and the emotion and metaphor of poetry, allowing you to experience the life put into them by the composers and poets.
Dr. McGilchrist quoted Einstein in summing-up our marvelous brains. Einstein said: "The rational mind is a faithful servant. The intuitive mind is a precious gift."
Click here to hear the program and read the transcript.