Shame on Santa — stealing the right brain

IMGP0483I have referred to Iain McGilchrist’s book The Master and His Emissary in previous writings.  McGilchrist worries about the increasing control of the left hemisphere in our lives and what that means for our future culture. I agree. I have written about some of the negative effects of technology as related to the left and right sides of the brain in my book, The Digital Pandemic.

 For you souls out there who aren’t up on left-brain and right-brain strategies, the left brain’s focus is on detail and control. It tends to atomize our world and our culture. The right brain is open to new experiences and brings us the richness of imagination and creativity. Both sides of our brain are involved in our thoughts and behaviors, I hasten to say, but some of us rely on characteristics of one side of the brain more than the other. This difference gives us a wholly distinct take on the world.

McGilchrist fears that left-hemisphere thinking is becoming dominant and we are tending more and more to see the world as a heap of intrinsically meaningless fragments. “The left hemisphere, ever optimistic, is like a sleepwalker whistling a happy tune as it ambles towards the abyss.”

I have had concern about these meaningless fragments, these “sticks and stones,” but I never thought the right hemisphere would be whisked away by a jolly old man in a red suit –– Santa Claus. Yes, Santa Claus! I reached this conclusion after thinking about gifts he would leave the children on Christmas day. Right-brain, creative, imaginative gifts or left-brain precision technology?

Forgetting gifts for a moment, it’s easy to see how the whole concept of Christmas has moved from a spiritual –– and some would say fantasy –– holiday, to that of a colorless celebration with little emotion, except perhaps for the very young. For centuries, Christmas has been a religious celebration invoking the name of St. Nicholas, a fourth-century Greek bishop. Manger scenes filled our parks, and the Christmas story was sung and told in public school auditoriums across the land.

It then shifted to a happy little guy named Santa who could touch his nose and take off like a rocket! How sad that Santa is now a marketer’s ploy to promote the sale of goods, even on Thanksgiving Day!

The next step in the transition from spiritual to secular eliminated color, because the left hemisphere is not crazy about creativity or colorful things. They get in the way of an objective, scientific approach. They muddy the waters and confuse one’s thinking. Rationality is king, and colors and lights are distracting. They’re not welcome in the palace of objectivity. That’s why the most stylish decorations today are not colorful. Silver, grey and white are used to give the impression of cold weather and snow, and that’s as it should be, according to some, because after all, Christmas is merely a celebration of the winter solstice. And be careful. Don’t dare say “Merry Christmas.” The politically correct handle in stores everywhere is “Happy Holidays.”

So what about the gifts? I researched newspaper ads and what did my eyes behold? No Donner and Vixen, but plenty of Samsung and Kindle. A Kindle Fire was on sale for only $379.99. It featured “an astonishing light in its quad-core 2.2 GHZ processor.” Oh man, that warms my heart. Also, the Samsung Android Galaxy Tab 3 Tablet for only $359.99! Or how about a Polaroid 7-Inch Kids Tablet with over 70 apps and games?

I continued scouring the ads, about to give up, when I touched my nose and found a Toys “R” Us catalog. Guess what? I found a Flutterby Flying Fairy Doll for only $29.99. Did I say fairy? My, that does warm my heart. So does the Cra-Z-Loom Shimmer and Sparkle Bracelet Maker for only $12.99.  And a couple of boys are shown riding an All-Y-Volution Carver Scooter for only 100 bucks. I even saw a Batman costume and a Lone Ranger doll. Wow!

So the right brain may be in retreat, but it has yet to fall over the abyss –– at least for younger children with less disposable income. Yes, there might be some advantages to being quite young and un-rich. Little ones can still enjoy the spirit of Christmas through the right sides of their brains because our schools and society haven’t yet sat on their imaginations. I visited a park near my home today and envied the little children talking to Santa Claus. I knew, at 6’4″ tall, that Santa wouldn’t want me on his knee while I recited my list of requests. But I enjoyed looking at the faces of the little ones. That was gift enough.

Thanks, kids. And Merry Christmas!







Why Can’t A Woman Be Like A Man?

Vietnam Oceania 237

Remember the song from the musical My Fair Lady?

We have known that brain wiring is different in men and women for about 30 years. Women have a better balance between both hemispheres of the brain and men. Men are more extreme. There are more men who are geniuses but also more men who are intellectually challenged and they outnumber women in a many developmental problems such as attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities.

The writer states that researchers indicate most changes start happening in adolescence, but the disabilities mentioned above show up much earlier. This research confirms our earlier findings based on behavior.

For more of my take on this go to:


Dogs Go To Heaven

Yes, these days some dogs are going to hospice. I can certainly empathize with the child or adult who loves their pet and does not want to see them in anguish, but I think it’s important to remember that animals are not people. While thousands of dollars are spent to make animals more comfortable as they near the ends of their lives, there are starving children in some parts of the world — and perhaps hungry ones here at home.

I believe there are some secular folks who want us to believe that we are the same as our pets — just animals. A little clue is that the word pet is no longer in vogue. The new term is animal companion. It won’t be too long before this term is replaced with just companion. So pets will be a companions just like grandma, uncle Billy, or our best human friend. Another clue is that we can no longer house our animal companions in cages, but rather must secure them in animal — or should I say companion — habitats.

The above article on dogs going to heaven is from the New York Times, December 1, 2013. Another article in the Times on that same day has to do with not extending the human lifespan because it might diminish the lives of younger folks. In this article, the author states that we are not obliged to help the old become indefinitely older. Indeed, our duty maybe just the reverse: to let death have its day. In fact, leaving humans around can be dangerous to our economy. The author, Daniel Callahan, warns us that when the old retire from work their place is taken by the young, but keeping the aged in place would surely throw that fruitful passing of the generations into chaos. (I wonder, Is all of this preparing us for Medicare death panels?)

I recall when I was in training years ago that physiological psychologists considered people to be merely animals, and this is unfortunately gaining greater acceptance with each passing generation.This concept was also eagerly accepted by Nazi scientists and physicians who conducted research on the humans under their control because they were “just” animals.

Maybe this is why we need traditional religious values. Without them, we are tempted to view people as animals and tempted to “submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” ( Gilbert Keith Chesterton).