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The Importance of Being Two: What It Means to Have a Divided Mind

Art by Lauren Mae, from "Left Brain, Right Brain" an experimental book that investigates her experience of living in Hong Kong through the two hemispheres of her brain.

Modern research on brain hemisphere differences suggests a much more complicated picture than the old rationality and language in the left hemisphere and emotion in the right story.  In fact this over-simplification has tainted our view of what the right hemisphere brings to our experience of the world.  The elevation of logic over emotion that came with the Enlightenment also brought a devaluation of many of the things that make us human, the importance of relatedness, context, and experience, just those perspectives and values that are brought to us by the, so-called, “minor” hemisphere.  


“If one had to encapsulate the principal difference in the experience mediated by the two hemispheres, their two modes of being, one could put it like this.  The world of the left hemisphere, dependent on denotive language and abstraction yields clarity and power to manipulate things that are known, fixed, static, isolated, decontextualized, explicit, disembodied, general in nature but ultimately lifeless.  The right hemisphere, by contrast, yelled a world of individual, changing, evolving, interconnected, implicit, incarnate, living beings within the context of the lived world, but in the nature of things never fully graspable, always imperfectly known — and to this world it exists in a relationship of care.”    - McGilcrist.


The left hemisphere’s perspective is clearly winning as we favor power, control, and manipulation over engagement, cooperation, and acceptance.  We have more faith in technology than ourselves and it is rapidly becoming apparent that the apps that were meant to bring us together often drive us apart.  Relentless and unjustified optimism, hallmarks of the left hemispheres attitude, continue to rule the day as exemplified by books like Steven Pinker’s recent homage to the glory of the Enlightenment and Western progress.  Yet, we all know that the picture is not that cheery.  We all sense that there is something more.  That is the voice of the right hemisphere, that is the voice of a reality outside of our selves.  


In this Olio, we will explore Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary which brings together a thorough exploration of current neuroscience and an in-depth history of the Western world showing us how periods of time and their attendant cultural changes mirror emphasis or de-emphasis of the value of what the right hemisphere brings.  


We will begin by watching a short film that introduces the core of McGilchrist’s work and immediately dive into a lively conversation about what all this means and what, if anything, we should do about it.  




Location: Strand Bookstore

828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

The Rare Book Room at Strand Bookstore boasts an elegant venue for our Friday night residency.


Other upcoming Olios


Sep 25

Immersive Listening - Radiohead's "OK Computer"

Taught by Whitney George
7:30 p.m. at Nowadays

Sign Up - $15

Sep 26

Olio Seminar | Words Shape Worlds: The Discourse of Courtrooms

Taught by Maureen Matarese
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $40

Sep 28

True Colors?: A Type of Bliss

Taught by Charles Riley
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Sep 29

OlioHouse Weekend | Afrofuturism & Herbalism

Taught by Makeba Lavan
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $75

Sep 29

The Coded, the Woven, and the Spoken

Taught by Sofi Thanhauser
4 p.m. at Mana Contemporary

Sign Up - $0

Oct 9

Olio Seminar | The New Deadly Sins

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at Nowadays

Sign Up - $40

Oct 12

Communities and Their Pitfalls

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20


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