Lesson 36- Right Lobe and Double Meaning
In future programs, I will continue to explore with you the different personality traits of the left and right lobes of the brain and how they impact our behavior. In my last program I was talking about the differences in the way that the verbal left lobe and the nonverbal right lobe communicate. Thus, I mentioned how the left lobe preferred abstract words which cant be pictured and the right lobe preferred concrete words which could be pictured. I also mentioned, because the right lobe preferred picturesque language, its words, especially when referring to the sexual parts of the human body, were considered dirty words by the moral left lobe. The reason for this, I suggested, was that the left lobe considered that the picturesque words preferred by the right lobe expressed the wrong attitude.
Now let me talk about another major difference in which the two lobes of the brain deal with language.
Research has indicated that the left lobe interprets words literally, which means that a word can have only one meaning. In one instance involving a patient whose corpus collosum had been split, thereby, disconnecting the communication link between his right and left lobes, he was asked by the doctor, How do you feel?, and he replied very seriously , With my hands. It was his literal left lobe, which, taking the question literally, gave the literal logical answer. To it, words like feel must have only one meaning and therefore, it is a stickler for defining words.
As a former debate coach, one of the first things that I had to teach my debaters was to define the important words in the debate resolution and to insist that the other team accept these definitions before the debate could begin. The reason is obvious. If each side in a debate, which is a left lobe activity, was using the same words but meaning different things by them, then the debate, instead of leading to the resolution of the problem, would go around in an endless circle. Clever debaters, knowing the importance of definitions, would often take advantage of this by defining or misdefining words to the advantage of their own argument. For example, during the 1960s, the national debate topic was that the United States should remove its troops from Vietnam. Obviously, considering the sentiments of the time, the resolution implied that we should consider our involvement in Vietnam a lost cause and should get out of it as quickly as possible. And this was the take that most negative teams, who opposed the resolution, took. Therefore, they assumed that each affirmative team, who supported the resolution, would argue against continuing the fighting in Vietnam and favor bringing our troops home. . Thus, most negative teams came loaded with evidence for why we should continue the war and not withdraw from Vietnam. Rather, we should stay until we had defeated the North Vietnamese. However, one clever affirmative team, realized that the word Vietnam, as used in the resolution, could be narrowly defined as South Vietnam, since that was where our troops were. Therefore, they came up with a plan in which our troops would be taken out of South Vietnam and, instead of coming home, would launch an all-out attack to defeat and occupy North Vietnam. The negative teams, which had come prepared to argue for the continuation of the war, failed to oppose this narrow definition of Vietnam, and found themselves arguing in favor of the affirmative plan for total victory over the North Vietnamese.
I dont know whether the non-debaters out there can appreciate the irony of this but to a debate coach it was a classic example of the importance of definitions in winning a debate. However, even non-debaters know how futile any discussion is when people are using words to mean different things. A classic example of this is the famous Whos on first? comedy routine done by Abbott and Costello in which Abbott is using the words Who and What as the proper names for the first and second basemen, while Abbott is using them as words to ask questions. Thus, Costello asks, Whos on first? to which Abbott replies Yes, Whose, which to him was the proper name of the first baseman, is on first. If you have ever seen this routine, then you know that it is a circular conversation which will never go anywhere because they are using the same words with entirely different meanings. Thus, the logical, linear left lobe insists that before any effective communication or thought can take place, all the words used must have only one meaning.
That is why science, which is a left lobe activity, is so concerned with definitions in which, following Aristotles advice, they define reality by placing things in their class and species. The class is the major group to which an object belongs, and the species is what makes it special or different within that class. Thus, for example, a pen belongs to the class of writing instruments. However, so does a pencil, and chalk. So, when defining a pen, we first put it in its proper class, which is a writing instrument and then we tell how it is special or different from other things that belong to the same class. Therefore, a pen is a writing instrument that uses ink while a pencil is a writing instrument that uses graphite and chalk is a writing instrument that uses powder. Do you see how logical this left lobe is and how it loves to classify and order things? It is factually oriented and, like science, wants nothing but the facts.
However, for the playful, amoral right lobe language is just another thing to be played with. The right lobe, which interprets words figuratively, believes that a word can and should have many meanings. Therefore, it is a master of double meanings and slang and it drives the left lobe wild with its refusal to play by the rules. Because of it, language is always changing in its meaning and thus one generation may not be able to understand another generation because they are using the same words to mean different things. For example, my students laugh when I tell them that we used to refer to a good looking girl as a good looking tomato. Yet they dont see anything odd when they say Boy, shes a fox or shes foxy. Statements like these would be totally confusing to the left lobe because to its literal, logical mind a tomato is a vegetable and a fox is a dog-like animal with a bushy tail. The right lobe, on the other hand, knowing that this is a figure of speech, would know that they both are referring to a good-looking girl.
Because it is always creating new meanings for old words, there is an ongoing conflict between the right and left lobe which sometimes is amusing and at other times is serious. Most jokes, for example, especially dirty jokes, are based on double meanings which the left lobe doesnt get.
Realizing that this is a religious program, I cant give an extreme example. However, perhaps you will allow me to give a minor example of how the right lobe plays around with double meanings to the confusion and consternation of the left lobe. The word ass, which to the left lobe refers to a donkey, is used by the mischievous right lobe to refer to the part of the human anatomy which the left lobe calls the buttocks. Therefore, the right lobe would think it amusing to create a scenario in which two people, looking at a donkey which belonged to one of them, would have a conversation that would go like this:
Boy, thats a good looking ass that you have. Would you mind if I patted it? and the other person would say, No! Go right ahead! In fact, if you want to you can kissed it.
(Did you just smile? If you did, it was your right lobe that got the double meaning and registered its reaction nonverbally by laughing or smiling. If you didnt smile, it was either because your left lobe, once the double meaning was transferred from you right lobe, was morally offended by it or, having an overwhelming dominant left lobe, you didnt catch the significance of the double meaning.)
A lot of songs have suggestive titles and lyrics which can be taken two ways. The right lobe is always using the indefinite pronoun it, since it could refer to anything, to slide double meanings pass the left lobes moral censorship. And, if the left lobe should occasionally catch it, it will plead innocence and blame the left lobe for reading something into the words that wasnt intended. For example, the lyrics of one Country song are If I told you that you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me? Another song, talks about a beat-up car that the singer has but, according to him, his girlfriend doesnt care because there aint nothing wrong with his radio. Now how should we take that? The beauty of this from the right lobes point of view is the denial factor. It can always claim that it is the left lobe, with its suspicious mind, that is reading something into the lyrics that is not really there. Obviously, the right lobe is playing around with the moral restriction of the left lobe and the left lobe is having a fit because it suspects it, but cant prove it. And, every time it tries to make a case, the right lobe cleverly denies it.
During the 1960s the Beatles were often accused, and sometimes rightly so, of using songs which had hidden double meanings. One song was Maryjane which to the in crowd who understood the double meaning was Marijuana. Another song was Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, a nonsensical title if there ever was one. But, again to the in-crowd it symbolized the mind-altering drug LSD.
But the Beatles didnt invent this ploy. It was taking place during my generation also. For example, take the term rock and roll. What does it really mean? Well, when I was a teenager, there was a song called the Sixty Minute Man whose lyrics said, Ill rock you, roll you, all night long. Im a Sixty Minute Man. Is there any doubt about what he was saying? Thus, when rock and roll first came upon the scene, it was rightly criticized for its obvious and not so obvious sexual content. In fact, in one documentary on the Sixties one of the persons interviewed who had been a teenager during that period said, with unusual honesty, that the adults accused the music of being too sexual and although he denied it at the time, they were right and that was the appealed to him.
The right lobers, when caught using double meaning words will always back the left lobers down by accusing them of being square, dirty minded or unhip, because they either dont understand the new meaning of words, or, understanding them, they are dirty minded because they are reading into them the wrong meaning. The word hip itself is one of those double meaning words. To the left lobe it is part of the body. To the right lobe it signifies someone who is in the know. Here is a song from the 60s done by the Chad Mitchell Trio which describes what happens when a hip right lober tries to communicate with unhip literal left lobers.
Song: The Hip Song
Now because I sometimes use this song with high school students to demonstrate the same point that I am making with you, I edited the last part. The song actually ends with the girl saying Do you know what Id like to do? and he says No! What? and she says, Id like to make love to which he replies, Well go baby, go! and then there is a long pause and, then, with a disgusted tone he says, And she went! proving the point that sometimes it just doesnt pay to be too hip.
Every once in a while, youll get a right lober openly admitting the little game that they play on the left lobers. Years ago, I was in a record store when I noticed a record album which had a picture of a devil looking through a microscope on the front jacket. I became curious and began to read a message from the artist that was written on the back of the jacket. This is what it said:
The revolution will probably be televised, but I dont have a TV and Im not gonna watch. With the talk of rating records and increased censorship, it may be getting difficult for some people to speak their mind. Black Flag (the name of the group) already has enough trouble with censorship coming from the business sector. Some record stores have refused to stock and/or display certain Black Flag records because of objectionable cover art and/or lyrical content. Now, with additional government involvement the crunch is on. Hope does lie in the fact that fortunately these straight pigs show little ability in decoding intuitive data. For example, even though this record may communicate certain feelings, emotions, and ideas to some, I have faith that the cop-type with their strictly linear minds and stick-to-the-rules mentality dont have the ability to decipher the intuitive content of this record. Of course, there may be a problem in that much of the public, most of whom comply with the whole idea of hiring the pigs in the first place, seem equally unable to intuitively feel and listen to music. Still, here it is The Process of Weeding Out. Signed Gregg Ginn. Some of the songs on the record were Your Last Affront and Screw the Law.
Why this is declaration of the right lobes attitude towards the restrictions of the left lobe and the tricks that it uses to get past the left lobes censorship philosophy is let it all hang out! while the left lobes philosophy is stuff some of it back in. We might say that the right lobe is concerned with total freedom while the left lobe is concerned with order and that is the nature of the conflict between them.
Listen to some of the words and phrases use by Mr. Ginn that illustrates that he knows the nature of the conflict between his right lobe artistic nature and the left lobe censors who want to restrict him. He refers to them as straight pigs with strictly linear minds indicating that he knows that they are goal directed and therefore make moral judgments based on these goals. He calls them cop-types with their stick-to-the-rules mentality indicating that he knows that they are the source of all laws and rules. He says they show little ability in decoding intuitive data or deciphering the intuitive content of his record indicating that the knows that because they think linear and literally, theyll miss the double meanings and hidden symbols contained in his songs. Could anyone state the nature of the conflict between the two brains more clearly?
I can think of only one other instance where the attitude of the right lobe was expressed so openly and clearly. It was while on a class trip to London where I saw a billboard which in the right, lower corner contained an artists palette, brushes, paints, and canvas and, in the upper left, corner, written in large, bold letters was the statement, There are no rules! Of course, this is an impulsive statement because, if this were true, then we, including all the artists, would live in chaos. Even the artist demands that there should be laws and rules when the impulsive behavior of other right lobers begin to impinge on his own freedom and well being. Rock stars who love to sing about unrestricted freedom sing a different song when they learn that they are loosing millions of dollars to people who download their songs for free on the Internet or to other people who illegally copy their CDs and sell them. Their tune then becomes, There ought to be a law!
The truth of the matter is that we need what they both have to offer. We need the creative freedom that the intuitive, artistic, right lobe desires but we also need the structure and order which the left lobe brings. The greatest art occurs only within the discipline of structure. When art is allowed to function in a totally free environment, it becomes gross and obvious. When it is forced to operate within stated limits it becomes subtle and sensitive. As I mentioned before, when the two lobes are operating in harmonious union, they are most like the interaction that exists between the persons contained in the Trinitarian God.
However, even with us the relationship between the right and left lobe is not always negative or conflictual. Sometimes it is light and playful.
The right lobe likes to create riddles, which are often based on double meanings to trick the left lobe. It knows that, because the left lobe is logical and linear, it will become confused by anything that is alogical and that it will continue to move in the same direction once it begins moving. Thus, for example, it will ask the left lobe Whats black and white and red all over? The logical left lobe, knowing that black and white are colors, concludes logically that red is also a color and sees that it is logically impossible for a thing to be both black and white and red all over. However, the clever right lobe knows that the word RED has a double meaning and could also be READ Therefore the answer is a newpaper. When it springs the answer on the confused left lobe, it laughs because it has outsmarted its intelligent, but less clever, partner.
The right lobe is the source of all magic which is based on misdirection. As I said, the linear left lobe once it begins to move will continue to move in that direction. Therefore, it can be tricked by misdirection which means that things suddenly move in a direction that it doesnt expect. To illustrate this, I perform a simple card trick for my students.
I take a regular deck of playing cards and ask one of my students to pick a card. I then instruct her to show the card to the rest of the class without letting me see it. Then I ask her to place it on the top of the deck. Putting the deck behind my back, I secretly turn the top card over so that it is facing up. Then, I show the class the deck of cards with the bottom card facing them and the top card facing me. Thus, while they are looking at the bottom card, I am looking at the face up top card, which, of course, is the card that the student picked. Then I say with an air of confidence Is this card (referring to one on the bottom of the deck which is facing the class) hers? They begin to laugh and say No! because it is apparent that my trick has failed. I reinforce their belief by looking confused. Then, putting the deck behind my back , I place the top card face down again, I recover from my fake embarrassment, by informing them that this is a special deck of cards which is able to talk. Taking the deck and placing it next to my ear, I riffle the deck and inform the students that I now know what the card is. Then I shuffle the deck numerous times to totally eliminate any possibility that I might know where it is. Of course, this doesnt matter because I have already seen the card . Then one by one, I begin the turn one card after another up from the deck. As I do so, I call out the identity of each one. Eventually, I come to the students card but I go right pass it. Then, about five cards later, I inform the students that I will bet anyone in the class $5 that the next card that I show them will be the one picked by the student. They all want to bet me because, since I have already passed the right card, they know, logically speaking, that the next card cant be hers. After all the bets are in, I reach down in the pile that I have already turned up and pick out her card. There is a groan of amazement and disbelief.
After informing them that none of our bets were serious, I show them how I trick their left lobes through misdirection. When I showed them the bottom card in the deck, they assumed that all the cards were facing in the same direction when in reality the top card was facing me. When they assumed that my trick had failed, I reassured their misconception by acting confused. When I passed the right card, I once again mislead them to believe that my trick had again failed. And, finally, when I said that the next card that I showed them would be their card, I mislead them again by causing them to assume that the next card would come from the deck in my hand rather than from the pile that I had already turned up. You see, I got their logical left mind moving in one direction and then I moved in a different direction.
Thus we might conclude that the right lobe is a magician who is clever and the left lobe is a logician who is intelligent. This, of course, raises the question as to what is the difference between cleverness and intelligence. Having taught on a volunteer basis for over four years in local prison, I can assure you that many of those prisoners were not dumb. In fact, I consider some of them to be the best students that I ever taught and, this includes, even the graduate students that I taught in college. If they were so smart, I used to wonder, what are they doing in prison. Then it dawned on me that their intelligence, as great as it was, lacked a moral dimension. They used it to fool, deceive, and take advantage of other people and that is why they were in prison instead of leading some major corporation.
Someone once said that great sinners, once they become converted, have the material for becoming great saints because whatever skills they used in being evil, after converting, they use in being good.
Thus, we shouldnt look at the right lobe as being a negative dimension of ourselves. It is probably what we call our heart because it is the most spontaneous part of us. Therefore, we wouldnt want to lose it. Rather, like God, we should be more interested in converting it because once it is moving with the left lobe in the right direction, it is dynamite. Together they are the original dynamic duo and, like Hope and Crosby, Abbott and Costello, and the Father and the Son they are suppose to be a team.
Well, I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.