I recently heard it was Left Hander’s Day. I am left handed. Which, of course, means that the right side of my brain is dominant. This presents a huge problem for me, as I tend to view the world as a series of colors and textures by nature and not in terms of facts. For instance, when I look at alphabetic characters and numerals, I see little creatures staring back at me. When I look at a pile of cotton or an aggregate floor covering, I see faces. And these faces start interacting with one another and stories develop.
Of course, not every right-brained person is creative, and not every left-brained person is a bean counter. But it trends that way. My two brothers and I all studied accounting. My brother became an accountant. I can’t even balance my checkbook. Bean counters rule the world, so I have tried to be a bean counter. But, in the end, I’m just not that interested in nickels and dimes. That’s not to say that numbers don’t fascinate me. I am like a walking human calculator. I watch download status bars and constantly calculate percentages left, and determine at what point I’ll hit certain percentages. I estimate quantities really well. For instance, one time a box of toothpicks spilled, and I knew instantly that there were 246 lying on the floor. (OK, that was Rain man, but you get the idea.)
Left brained people don’t see the world the same as right brained people. The see cold, analytical realities (those of them who went to college to learn and not fry brain cells partying till 3am every night). They learn mathematical formulae and become masters of procedures. They get good grades, are rewarded for attendance records, receive conduct awards and smiley faces for coloring inside the lines. Right brained people receive labels, such as “absent-minded, unorganized, blond, ADD, unfocused, lazy, stupid, strange.” I never understood why, in first grade, the teacher was so upset when I demonstrated that, by attaching a pen clip to a ruler, you could really make it fly! (I got a taste of how Wilbur and Orville must have felt.)
The world needs both left-brained and right-brained people. Since there are boxes of society, it’s good that many people can function well inside these boxes. But, without the people who live outside the box, the world would be a very sterile place. Einstein failed high school algebra. Then he gave us the Relativity Theory. (Maybe, what really happened is algebra failed him.) People who fail in school often become our actors, musicians, writers, directors, artists. While I certainly wouldn’t want them running my country, I wouldn’t have any reason to crack a novel or go the movies if these people didn’t exist. (Reagan ran the country OK, but was he really an actor?)
Yes, we do have to be careful of giving right-brained people too much power. Otherwise we end up with people like Napoleon. But creativity can be a powerful thing if it’s channeled properly. It’s unfortunate that many right-brained people are exploited by bean counters. That is why, for instance, so many musicians are forced to suffer in the music industry. Many artists are passed over because they won’t fit into the box in which the studios want them to fit. Some of the best music that would ever have happened probably didn’t because a great talent was forced to make “commercially acceptable” music. Most musicians who do survive in the industry discover that they get by while their “handlers” become filthy rich. The bean counters buy up the avenues through which real talent could shine. Thus, they keep control of the money machine. Their motive is not making good music, it’s making good money.
Right-brained people suffer from more depression. Scientists tell us that the brains of left-handed men are more like the brains of women. The number of connections between the hemispheres is much greater than the typical male in both respects. I think this causes a real dilemma for the left-handed male. Men typically are called upon to do the heavy lifting. They are, by and large, able to concentrate on a single task and block out competing thoughts. Women, who typically run families, are typically good at multitasking. But the right-brained male finds that, like a woman, he tends to have an emotional attachment to what he does. He dwells on it. This slows the process with unnecessary thinking. This becomes very burdensome over time, which is probably the cause of the depression. This is my theory, anyway. I haven’t read it in a Psychology or medical journal, but I think I will some day. I only know that it takes impending disaster to get me to focus on something to the exclusion of all else.
I am, to a great degree, ambidextrous. I’m really left dominant. But, over the years, I have learned to do most things with either hand. I have learned to adapt to the right hand world, even as I learned to sit sideways to adapt to those funky right-sided school desks. I have also developed somewhat of a dual personality. At times, it slips out when I’m in public. I suppose most sane people don’t talk to themselves out loud as my right and left side often do. Some day this will come in handy when I get my own radio talk show. When a guest cancels, I can just have a conversation with myself. One side of me will ask about my take of the issues of the presidential debate, and my other side will comment that the red and blue bunting was especially striking.
I like writing. It’s the perfect outlet for someone like me. It allows me to train my unwieldy right brain to serve the purposes of the left brain. Unlike conversation, I can rewrite and edit. But, mostly, writing is an art form in itself. Some days I can and must stick to a script that is prescribed by outside considerations. But, always, I am in charge of the script. If I decide to write about pink elephants and unicorns instead of Republicans and Democrats, who’s going to stop me? Sometimes, I can spontaneously break into song. That can lead to a whole different kind of recording. When I sit down to throw words on a page, it’s like having several different colors of paint open and at the ready. I just never know what’s going to end up on the canvass. Some days it might resemble word salad, but salad is still edible in my book.
Anyway, I’m supposed to celebrate being left-handed. And I do. The beauty of growing up and becoming self-employed is that I have the ability to create my own little left-handed world. In this great new freedom is a sense of peace. But I must still interact with the right-handed world. I must still try to follow their laws and procedures. I don’t always do a very good job of that. But, when I fail, and they call me on it, I always have an ace up my sleeve. “Sorry, I was having a right-brained moment.”
- Why The Left-Brain Right-Brain Myth Will Probably Never Die [Debunkery] (io9.com)
- Can We Quit It With the “Right Brain, Left Brain” Stuff Already?! (bigthink.com)
- Left and Right Brain Comparison (artprofilesworld.wordpress.com)
- Left and Right Brain Comparison (laurawebblikes.wordpress.com)
- Why the Left-Brain Right-Brain Myth Will Probably Never Die (theartsyfilmblog.com)
- The persistence of the left-brain right-brain myth (moreinterestingthings.com)