Psychology

  • Issue 97 / January - February 2014



    Interview with the Two Brain Lobes

    Sermed Ogretim

    If you want to know why some of us are so poetic, while others are strictly straightforward, then read on this unprecedented discussion and see how the Left Brain and the Right Brain discuss their differences.

    Moderator - Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight, we have two guests that have long been the focus of media attention: Left Brain and Right Brain. We are going to discuss their opinions on various issues. Without losing much time, I want to get to the first question. Many public figures who have inspired people go through a period of self discovery, after which they define their identities and their surroundings anew. Did you have a similar self-discovery period? And if yes, how do you define yourself now?

    Left Brain – I guess I never had a distinct enlightenment period, but I kept building on top of what I already knew about myself. So, my self discovery starts with my babyhood, really. For example, as the eyes gained the ability to distinguish colors and to focus on objects at different distances, I realized that I can collect information about the outside world through colors, shapes, and distances. As the muscles became stronger, I felt free to move my body and developed the notion of being distinct from other things around me. I also realized that I can gather data about what is where, how I can find what I need... When I learned to speak, I developed the notion that there are other people like me out there, for whom I am the other. And so on...

    Right Brain – Before I say anything, I would like to bring to your attention that the way I am named is not something I came up with or something I am delighted by. For me, there isn't a left-right distinction. There is a brain, and that's it. And actually, I would not call the eyes separate organs. They are only a different part of the same organ, i.e. the brain. Muscles are alike. They are not distinct entities. We are all part of the same organ. So, for me too, self discovery started with my babyhood, but realizing my new abilities forced me to redefine myself, again and again. For example, when I discovered my legs, I did not become a brain with legs, but opened my eyes to a new dimension of my existence. I realized that I was not just about what I thought I was. The same goes for vision, or smell. When you smell something for the first time, that is a creative act. When you taste a fruit for the first time, that is an invention for you. All these culminate in a notion in which everything unifies. Walking is thinking, thinking is walking. Seeing is tasting, tasting is seeing. So, for example, if you cannot solve a problem, try smelling it, tasting it, walking it.

    Left Brain – Let's not get poetic here. If you cannot solve a problem, that's because you either haven't gathered enough data or haven't yet developed a known pattern of solution. It's also possible that your attention, in the moment, is distracted, due to things like walking, smelling, tasting; you know what I mean?

    Moderator – Let's not lose our focus here. The next topic I want to bring forward is a little more subtle: love and marriage. What do you think love is, and why are marriages today more restrained than before?

    Left Brain – There are different categories of love. For instance: the love between couples, the love between parents and their children, and the love between friends are not the same kinds of love. So I am assuming that you are specifically talking about the one between couples. Even in this type of love, there are various facets. Sometimes, it means dedication to support each other. Sometimes it is being valued by the other. You can extend this list. Love is like light. The same phenomenon can display itself in different colors and strength. Today, there is a lot of research about the physical manifestations of love, and the properties of successful marriages. There are also studies on divorces. It seems that, for the moment, there is no predictor of the fate of a given marriage in the long run. Having said that, I should admit that there are some proxies of an imminent divorce. For instance, addiction or a lack of intimacy often lead to divorce. Aside from the factors that are related to the conscience of individuals, there are more subtle factors that need extra focus. The fast pace of change in modern life versus the slow change of cultural settings definitely brings stress to many couples. The norms and expectations from each other depend on one's cultural and emotional baggage. Whether one can fulfill those expectations given the modern conditions is another story. All these are playing a role in restraining the family in our times.

    Right Brain – Like anything else in the universe, we look for unity. If you love someone, you want to be with them, because love is a realization that part of your existence is in the other. We all crave for being one with those we love. But why don't we feel such emotions for anyone but only for certain people? Perhaps, this is one of the points where the veils before destiny are pulled open. When we tell someone that we love them, we actually mean, "I need you... and I need to be needed." This is a two-way hunger which is quenched by the unity of the lovers. This is why love inherently demands continuity; for unity is only established when all separations in time and space are eliminated. And this is why, perhaps, marriages are most troubled today. Life conditions and individual choices are not made in order to nourish continuity. Staying side by side is mistaken for unity.

    Moderator – Have you ever fallen in love?

    Left Brain – Is there anyone who hasn't? As one colleague of mine says, "we are wired for love and belonging; that's why we are here." Love is one way of becoming a part of something bigger than us: having a family, raising children, and contributing to the well-being of our society through various love-inspired activities. Even ascetics and saintly people pursue a path of love inspired by God. So, love is all around us.

    Moderator – But I asked if you ever "fell in love." I understand if you don't want to go that deep into your private life.

    Left Brain – (pauses for a second) ... I might have felt special things for some people. But, in the long run, I saw that those feelings did not bear any meaning for the real life. And this realization gave me immunity towards those special feelings. If you can stand back, and take a deep breath... Oh yes, and let me say this as an aside: this is how love works. You cannot step away from the situation and breathe deeply or think clearly. Love only works when you can't think clearly. This loss of brain power is eliminated when you hit the bottom of the love you are falling into. So, what was I saying? If you stand back and take a deep breath, you'll see that there are thousands of people with whom you can get along with at least as well as the one you are with at that moment. Nobody is irreplaceable. There is always another one more beautiful, friendlier, more generous, more sacrificing, etc. There is always going to be another love following the current one. So, no need for falling!

    Moderator – What about you, Right Brain? Have you ever fallen in love?

    Right Brain – I can't breathe without love! For me, life and everything in it gains meaning only through love. And this meaning is not always visible at first sight. "L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur." As the fox tells the Little Prince, what's essential is invisible to the eye; one only sees well with the heart. So, falling in love reveals the meanings hidden behind objects and events. It's not that you fall in love with something that is extraordinary, but that love makes the ordinary things extraordinary. It is the intertwining of their destinies that make people special for each other. Imagine this: the Great Author of the universe is writing a love story of you and your beloved one. What greater meaning can you ask for? For me, each and every person I fell in love with is special, no matter how the story ended. I always keep a room reserved for them in my heart.

    Moderator – In the last century, scientific thought and technological achievements led many people to question their religious teachings and affiliations. Their faiths were shaken as a result of their experiences in intellectual and social areas. I even remember a book titled Youth's Faith Is Stolen by Questions. My question to you is: how do you define the relationship between religion and science?

    Left Brain – This question has been asked on many other occasions. For me, this is a straightforward issue. Personally, I am a believer. For me, science gathers information about the outside world. Religion tells me about the purpose of the world. A more cliché way of saying the same thing is, "science answers how, religion answers why." Therefore, I don't see why the two should contradict or clash. You can have a user's manual for a car or a computer. But what you are going to do with it is totally up to you. Science and technology are like that manual. From them, we learn to make use of what is available here in this world. But religion guides us in what we should do, or how we should do it.

    Right Brain – If you go back in history, you'll see that religion and science were not different entities. Even the several branches of science we have today were united as a single body. If you were a knowledgeable man, you knew everything. Of course, with the accumulation of more and more information, a classification was needed, but unfortunately this classification led to oblivion among these different classes. Nowadays, people are rediscovering the value of the unity of knowledge through interdisciplinary studies. The same, I think, is true for religion and science. Had things taken a different route in history, one in which the sense of unity was essential, the definitions we are using today would have been completely different. Science would not be the study of how the universe functions but how God executes his will in the physical realm. Similarly, instead of being perceived as a set of rules that bound both God and people, the laws of nature would be defined as the stable patterns (straight paths) of creation that host the travelers in life. Accordingly, those stable paths would be a restriction for us, as humans, but not for the Lord of the worlds. Such an understanding would have, perhaps, fostered a completely different history than what we have now. Reading the creation as verses from the Perfect Designer, treating life events as personal instant messages from the closest Friend would transform our journey in this world from a merciless struggle of survival to being the hero of our stories, which are produced by the Supreme Sustainer.

    The same goes for how religion is perceived and practiced. Instead of becoming a set of precise actions and words, religion would be the way to educate our conscience and will in order to be respectful lovers of God. Instead of becoming a formula that "ensures" heaven solely for its followers, religion would be the means to spread peace and prosperity to everyone, just like the All-Merciful one sustains even those who deny His existence.

    Moderator – Finally, I would like to ask you the ultimate question. Where is the world headed regarding its current economic, ecological, and political unrest? Do you see hope for the future?

    Left Brain – Oh, absolutely! People have been voicing similar concerns for such a long time. Even when the world population was a third of what it is now, there were debates on whether food would be enough, and so on... But today, we are here with 7 billion people. It may be painful, but I am sure in the long run, things will get settled.

    Moderator – Painful? What do you mean by that?

    Left Brain – Of course there are wars , and there is a disparity in the distribution of wealth, and healthcare is not accessible in many places. So, it is going to take some time until a global welfare and healthcare system is established to cover everyone. But with the advent of technology in communications and transportation, this is going to become easier over time, and we'll get there. Until that point, though, there are going to be losses.

    Right Brain – There is an old saying: "If He didn't want to give, He wouldn't give us the need to ask from Him." I think the fact that we are yearning for a better tomorrows is a sign that we'll get there.

    Moderator – Then, would you blame the turbulence of today to yesterday's lack of desire for better tomorrows?

    Right Brain – You're making me smile. Desire for a better tomorrow is not the same thing as desire for a better income. If everybody dreams for a better tomorrow, then this becomes a global prayer for peace and prosperity. If everybody wants what's best for themselves, things don't add up. This is even worse if some people think of their prosperity at the expense of others. So, in this sense, I think we can talk about a lack of desire for a better tomorrow, which governed the world for most of the last century. Today, though, through the growing means of communication and transportation, interfaith and intercultural dialogue activities are blossoming. These carry the potential to initiate a global prayer for peace and prosperity. When that happens, I am hopeful that that prayer will be answered.

    Moderator – Thank you Left Brain and thank you Right Brain for allowing us to have a peek into your personal worlds.

    Share/Bookmark

    comments powered by Disqus