Lesson 35- Right and Left Lobe Communication
Well, I hope that my summary of some of the major points has brought everyone up to speed. Once you understand the nature of the right and left lobes of our brains, you begin to see more and more ways in which it can be applied not only to our own behavior but also to the nature of the universe in which we live. As I mentioned in a previous program, we seem to live in a dialectical universe in which everything seems to have a right and left to it. And thus, it would seem to be logically consistent that the mind that made the universe is dialectical itself.
Therefore, the more we understand the nature of dialectical relationships, the more we will understand the nature of God Himself and in understanding God, we, who also possess dialectical minds made in His image and likeness, will increase our understanding of ourselves and others. Therefore, let me explore with you some of the implications that flow from the dialectical nature of our minds. However, we must keep in mind that while we often lose the proper balance between these two dialectical perspectives, God, the Perfect Rational Mind, is perfectly balanced so that each part of His dialectical nature operates in harmonious unity and to the extent that we approach this type of harmonious unity, we become more and more in His image and likeness. So, keeping this in mind, lets look at some of the characteristics of the right and left lobes of the brain.
The first characteristic is the way in which the two brains communicate. The nonverbal right lobe communicates by showing how it feels through facial expressions, body postures, and by adding tone and expression to our language. It smiles when its happy, and frowns when its sad., it hugs and kisses when it loves you and punches and kicks when it doesnt. It gives you the finger to insult you and makes the Sign of the Cross to bless you. It cries and trembles and cowers when it is fearful and struts like a peacock when it is full of confidence. When in the presence of something that is higher and more dominant, it lowers its body by bowing, genuflecting, kneeling, or prostrating itself and when it is dominant, it places itself higher than others by sitting on a throne. It cheers when you please it and boos when you dont. It uses rhythmic movements in dance to express sexuality by pumping or grinding its pelvic area or symbolizes cultural values through folk dances. Its the cheering crowd at football games; its the clapping hands at plays and concerts; its the swaying bodies and raised hands at revivals and prayer meetings. Its the life and enthusiasm in everything that we do because it is expressing in a uncensored , spontaneous way what is internally in our hearts. Although, we might not always like what it is communicating, we always know that it is genuine because it impulsively blurts out what it is feeling. Its our heart, our Will, our true selves. And, ultimately, it is our eternal destiny because, in the final analysis, where ever the heart is, is where we really are. If you want to see the uncensored right lobe in action just watch the crowd at a football or hockey game or a WWII wrestling match. What youre looking at is the human heart as God sees it because He glosses over our words and plummets immediately into the depths of our hearts where the real us resides. And maybe, that is why God, is more interested in changing our hearts, or right lobes, than in changing our minds, or left lobes. As one of the lines in the song Hosea says, The wilderness, will lead you to your heart where I will speak. Translated it means, When your sins have made you sick and, in utter despair you cry out for someone to show you the way, then you will be able to listen to Me and I will show you the way to eternal life.
Whenever we are communicating with others, our right lobes are constantly and unconsciously scanning the other persons body, face, and tones for the nonverbal clues that are part of the total communication message. Thus, if we want to know how the right lobe feels about anything, pay attention to the nonverbal communication in yourself and others.
Animals, because this is the only type of communication available to them, spontaneously communicate their internal feelings nonverbally. Our dogs wag their tails when they are happy or lower it between their legs when they are frightened. When we scold them by raising our voice, shaking our finger in an accusing manner, and moving towards them, they understand our nonverbal language and cower by lowering their bodies and backing up. When they are angry or aggressive they bare their teeth and move forward.
Zoologist call these intentional movements and we, just like the animals, instinctively use them to communicate nonverbally what our intentions are. When animals wish to communicate that they are dangerous and not to be fooled with they lean or move forward, expand their profile by raising their hair, humping their backs, pumping air into their chest, spreading their arms etc When we wish to express aggressiveness, we instinctively put our hands on our hips, lean forward, and puff up our chest. When animals wish to show that they dont intend to be threatening, they do the opposite by leaning or moving backwards, and decreasing their profile by cowering and we do the same thing. When animals are under attack by a member of their own species and they wish to appease the attacker by surrendering, they will expose a vulnerable part of their body to the attacker. Thus, dogs and wolves will open up their throats, peacocks and other birds who are unable to escape by flying away, will expose the back of their heads and human beings will raise their hands and expose their chests as a sign of surrender. There are other intentional movements which we share with animals but I think that these examples should be enough to show that we share in this nonverbal communication with animals. Since, we have never been taught these movement and yet we use them in the same way as animals, it seems logical to conclude that whatever part of us knows what they mean and how to use them, must be related to our animal nature.
Our right lobe is also prone to interpret the signs of nature as nonverbal expressions of Gods right lobe. When the sun shines on one of our events, it is a nonverbal sign of His approval or blessing. When it rains, it is a negative sign and indicates His disapproval. Thus, people throughout history have interpreted or misinterpreted the signs of nature as indications of Gods Will. For example, Martin Luther, while in the midst of a terrible thunder and lightening storm, took this as a sign of Gods disapproval of him, and swore that if he survived that He would dedicate his life to God by becoming an Augustinian monk. And, we all know what the results of that was.
But hes not alone because we all, to a greater or lesser degree, believe that God communicates with us nonverbally through the movements and signs of nature. The thunder and lightening are a sign of His anger, the rain is a symbol of His tears, the clouds on the horizon are a forewarning of something negative that is about to happen, the sunshine after the storm is an indication of His forgiveness, and the rainbow in the sky is a sign that He will never inundate the world again with a flood like He did in the day of Noah. Thus, natural disasters are often interpreted by our right lobes as indications of His anger and disapproval, while sunshine and prosperity are signs of His blessing and approval. Does Gods right lobe, which corresponds to the Father, really communicate in this way? It seems obvious that our right brain, which is responsible for these interpretations or misinterpretations, believes that He does and I, like many of you, am prone to believe it. However, the left lobe has a different take on it. It is more likely to look for the logical laws of nature as the cause of these phenomena or the logical consequences of our behavior. The weather is due to high or low pressures. Thunder and lightening result from the build up of electrical charges. Mudslides took place because we removed grass and tree that allowed the topsoil to erode away.
The left lobe of the brain, lacking the symbolic propensities of the right lobe, likes its communication a little more concise and clear. Nonverbal communication for it is too vague and symbols are too open to interpretations and misinterpretations and so it prefers words which can state explicitly what the other person is trying to communicate. When we are communicating with young children we run into the same problem. Although they are communicating stress or pain through their crying, it doesnt tell us the nature of the distress or the source of the pain. Thus, anxious parents have to use a trial and error method to locate the problem. Is the baby wet, hungry, has gas, laying on a sharp object, or frightened? Nonverbal communication just doesnt cut it when we need specific information. And thus the power of language is that through words we can replace general impressions with specific information.
Where the right lobe hugs and kisses to express love, the left lobe simply states, I love you, and then begins to explain specifically in words why it does. Where the right lobe expresses hatred through punches and kicks, the left lobe simply states I hate you and then begins a list of reasons for why it does. The right lobe, being existential, simply expresses an internal feeling while the left lobe needs to explain the feeling.
Someone once said, the heart needs no reason and the flip side of this is the mind does. Studies have shown the left lobe in split brain persons is constantly making up reasons for things that the right lobe is doing even though it doesnt know what is motivating the right lobe because the communication link between them at the corpus collosum has been severed. However, the most effective communication is when both of them are on the same page and inputting their particular ability into the message.
Thus, the left lobe without the right lobe is monotone and computer-like in its communication. It says, I love you, and that is the fact. However, when it joins up with its more expressive partner, the same statements sounds like this, I love you, Baby, and I really mean it. On an even more sophisticated level, the two of them join together to express deep feelings and insights through poetry which combines the language skills of the left lobe with imagery and symbolic skills of the right lobe. And, of course, an even higher level is reached when these symbolic words are put to the rhythmic patterns of music. Thus, we get a powerful description of the nature of love expressed in the lyrics of songs like The Rose, whose closing lines are:
When the night has been too lonely, and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong.
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed that with the suns love in the Spring becomes the rose.
Didnt I tell you that they were dynamite when they cooperated together instead of in opposition?
In a previous program and in a different context I demonstrated how the right and left lobe use language. In the previous context, I was demonstrating how the left lobe was motivated by goals and therefore made moral judgments based on goals. Thus, to it lying was wrong because the primary purpose of speech is to communicate information so that human knowledge can advance. Lying was wrong because it missed the target by communicating misinformation and thereby undermined the advancement of human knowledge. I then explained the same thing to the right lobe by telling the story of the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf. The point that I made at that time was that the left lobe preferred abstract words like primary, purpose, communicate, all of which lack any bodily attributes such as arm, legs, eyes or ears. On the other hand, the right lobe, while it doesnt understand language, is capable of understanding a few common nouns, such as boy, wolf, village. In other words, it, being existential, understands things that exist but it doesnt understand any verbs, which indicate things in action. Perhaps this is because the idea of becoming is foreign to it because its existential view believes that things just are and need no cause and effect explanation for their existence.
Cartoons, which the right lobe loves, are a good example of this. Have you noticed that cartoons are, for the most part nonverbal and alogical. The best example is the Roadrunner which is completely devoid of dialogue, except for Beep! Beep! Since it has no dialogue, then watching it is a complete right lobe experience. Whatever you know about the plot you inferred from the nonverbal action. Your right lobe was in its glory as it interpreted the facial expressions and bodily postures of the two contestants. And, when it saw the coyote fall two thousand feet and then have an anvil land on top of his head, which pushed it completely into its torso, it didnt even give it a second thought when he appeared in the next scene completely restored and whole. Time after time, his face is blown off and his body is pulverized. According to logic, he should have been dead a thousand times over, but he isnt because cartoons are not limited by logic and reality. In fact, they are alogical and that is what makes them funny.
The same is true even for those cartoons that contain dialogue. There is one great scene in a Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam cartoon where, Sam is chasing Bugs in a circus setting. He chases Bugs up a hundred foot tower which leads to a diving board. Bugs is standing on the edge of the diving board with no place to go but down. Sam reaches into his pocket and pulls out a full size saw. How he ever got it in there defies logic. He then proceeds to saw through the diving board that Bugs is standing on. Logic knows that this is the end of Bugs because he is certain to fall 100 feet to his death. Then surprise!, to everyones amazement, when Sam has sawed all the way through the diving board, it is the tower that Sam is on that falls, while the diving board with Bugs on it remains standing in mid-air. If you think that the fall killed Sam, think again. He was back in the next scene with another plot for catching Bugs.
The right lobe is not controlled by the rule of logic or cause and effect. It is magical and deals in the world of imagination and fantasy where anything can happen and often does. The left lobe, on the other hand, is logical and is constrained by the laws of reality.
Because the right lobe is imaginative, it thinks in pictures and that is why it can deal only with concrete words that generate pictures. Abstract words, which can not be pictured, go completely over its head. Once we understand this, we can begin to understand some of the conflicts that arises between them. For example, the left lobe, being logical and scientific, has an abstract, scientific word for all the intimate parts of the male and female anatomy. It has words like penis, vagina, womb, breast, and rectum which can be used in polite society because they are abstract and generate no pictures. However, the right lobe has alternative words for each of these which, if used in polite society, would cause a moral uproar. Each one of its words are loaded with imagery and are considered to be dirty by the moral left lobe. Thus, if youll excuse me for being blunt, sexual intercourse becomes screwing and breast become Boobs, Buns, or Hooters.
Why, one might ask, does the moral left lobe consider these right lobe words to be dirty and offensive. Arent they both referring to the same thing? Yes, they are. However, words express more than what a thing is, they also often indicate our attitude towards the thing.
For example, years ago during the Black Revolution of the 1960s, I, and other teachers who were teaching in Black inner-city school, were required to attend after school meeting in which the students and faculty were addressed by Black leaders who were either trying to increase Black Pride in the students or sensitivity to the Black Experience in the teachers. Some of these sessions were good and some were very questionable in terms of their content and taste. At one particular evening meeting held in an auditorium at Temple University, the students and teachers were subjected to outrageous remarks by speakers who were dressed in Black Panther attire. One speaker, a teacher from another school, for whom I had previously had some respect, got up and said to the mainly female crowd, Why cant we use the words that we as Black people use on the street. Words like.and then he went through a litany of just about every vulgar street term that referred to the sexual interaction between males and females. Each time he mentioned a word, the female students roared and clapped with approval. Unfortunately, the auditorium was dark and there was no opportunity to question the speakers because I was aching to ask him whether it matter whether a person referred to him as a Afro-American Man or a nigger because words not only express what a thing is but also our attitude towards it. Obviously the first word is one of respect and the second one is one of disrespect.
The next day in class, I took the students to task. I asked them, if words dont matter, whether they would continue to see a gynecologist who referred to their anatomy with the street terms used by the previous nights speaker. They immediately saw my point and realized that words do matter. They not only refer to things but they also reveal our attitude towards those things and that is why the left lobe considers certain words used by the right lobe to be dirty or offensive. This being the case, where do you think words like honky, nigger, spic, dago, fag, and kike, just to mention a few, come from? They are terms of disrespect and derision and the logical left lobe, understanding that their purpose is to degrade and hurt, censors and disallows them in the name of social harmony.
The role of the left lobe as censor was illustrated in one experiment conducted by brain scientists. Both the right and left lobe of a persons brain were hooked up to electrodes that were able to measure the brains waves produced by each lobe. A stimulus, such as a sound , was introduced into each ear and the brain waves produced were observed on a screen. When the sound was placed in the left ear which enters the right lobe of the brain, the brain waves peaked immediately indicating an instantaneous acceptance of the stimulus. When the same sound was introduced into the right ear, which entered the left lobe, there was a delayed response which indicated that the left lobe paused to evaluate the stimulus before accepting it. This, of course, is the moral dimension of the left lobe which evaluates whether something is good or bad before accepting it. By the same token, it also illustrates the amoral dimension of the right lobe and indicates the powerful impact that artistic communication has in shaping our values and attitudes.
What this experiment suggests is that the artistic right lobe will not censor any stimuli, especially those that are presented to it in an artistic form. This means that art has unimpeded access to our hearts and the hearts of our children. This is both good news and bad new because it means that Art, by which I mean all artistic form such as music, dance, painting, sculpture, drama etc, has the power to instill in us either great good or great evil depending on the quality of the Art.
Unfortunately, we have lost sight of this because we have place most of the art forms in the realm of entertainment and, by doing so, believe that they all come under the heading of innocent fun. And everybody knows that if it is fun then you shouldnt take it too seriously. The ancient philosophers, like Plato, had a different perspective because they understood the power of art, especially music, to shape the values and attitudes of the human heart.
In a previous program, I mentioned that in Platos Republic, where he described his idea of the perfect society, the first subject taught to students was music because it trained their souls. In fact, Plato said that the fastest and easiest way to change the values of any societies was to change its music and it certainly appears that the value structure of the United States has gone through a major transformation as the music became wilder and more vulgar.
If we truly understood the impact that all the art forms have on our right lobes, we would be much more careful about their content both for ourselves and our children. I cant emphasize enough that much of what parents consider to be innocent entertainment is really the most powerful tool for shaping the hearts of their children since it goes right pass their moral censor and enters directly into their hearts. And the most powerful of them all, as Plato observed, is music because it is deepest type of nonverbal communication.
Those people who laugh at the idea that parents should be concerned about their childrens music because they are simply amusing themselves say this without any understanding of what the word amuse means. The prefix a means without and muse means thought. So amusement is a component of Gehenna, the hell of the left lobe, which means empty thought. Its total intent is to relieve us of the heavy duty of rational thought, which, occasionally, is necessary. However, when it becomes the end all and be all of our existence, then it undermines our efforts to get out of Gehenna, the Kingdom of Mental Darkness, into the Kingdom of Mental Light.
Once we understand the different ways in which our left and right lobes communicate, then we can start to become aware of their different personalities. For example, we know that the right lobe is, for the most part, unable to understand language and that it becomes rapidly bored whenever it is in a situation where language is the major form of communication. For example, have you ever seen a mother and young child stop to talk with a neighbor while on their way to the store. As the adults become involved in an extended conversation, the child grows more and more impatient. He begins to tug on his mothers dress and pleads with her to go. After a while, as the conversation continues, the child will find some distraction, like swinging on a pole, to relieve his boredom.
The next time that you are having a long, dull conversation on the phone or listening to a long lecture which is abstract in nature, observe what your hand starts to do. Since you cant observe facial expression or body postures over the phone and since lectures generally involve abstract language with little emotional content, the right lobe has nothing to do. Therefore, it picks up a pen or pencil and, like the bored little child swinging on the pole, begins to distract itself by doodling. This suggests that doodles are a direct reflection of the personality of our right lobes.
As a teacher who has taught for over 40 years, I can testify to the fact that there are a growing number of students who, because their left lobes are so underdeveloped, have a very short attention span when it comes to language. And I suspect that much of what is diagnosed today as Attention Deficit Disorder is simply the failure of the left lobe of the brain to develop its ability to focus and I also suspect that much of it is due to our culture rather than any defect in the childs brain..
Marshall MacCluren, a Canadian professor, once wrote a book called the Medium is the Message which analyzed the impact of television on us. Where other people were focused on the content of the programs, Professor MacCluren focused on the effect that TV as a medium of communication was having on our minds. Prior to TV, most people received information either through the printed word or radio, both of which required different mental skills than watching television. To read, one has to focus on words; to listen to the radio, one has to exercise their imagination to flesh out what is being described. To watch TV, one doesnt have to do either. Thus, the very function and structure of our brains, said Professor Mac Cluren, was changed by the medium through which we received information. If this is so, then what do you think would be the impact on the brains of children who grow up in a culture in which everything is short, loud, and immediate? A culture where very little reading takes places, where political sound bites lasting 30 seconds replace detailed discussion of the issues, where movies and TV programs are filled with crashing cars, exploding buildings, constant action and violence? Do we really think that this is conducive to creating brains that can focus on the subtleties of life?
Thus, the major issue today might be which brain are we stimulating the most through our methods of communication? The rational, reflective, logical, moral left brain or the arational, non-reflective, alogical, amoral right brain? Of course, ideally, we would want to stimulate both so that we, like God, would have a harmonious balance between the two.
Well, I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.