[FoRK] Toward a left/right brain integration

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Jul 22 10:03:56 PDT 2010

Processing - Creative Coding and Computational Art, Ira Greenberg, published 2007 by FriendsOfEd (friendsofed.com)
pg. xxiii:
> *Toward a left/right brain integration*
> I once had a teacher who said something to the effect that there is significance in things that bore us, and ultimately these 
> are the things that we should study.  I thought at the time that he was being annoyingly pretentious.  However, I've come to 
> recognize something important in his suggestion.  I don't necessarily think we need to study all the things that bore us.  But 
> I do think that at times, the feeling of boredom may be as much a defense mechanism as it is a real indicator of how we truly 
> feel about something.  I've become aware of the feeling of boredom in my own process, and notice it usually occurring when 
> there is fear or anxiety about the work I'm doing (or the pressure I'm putting on myself).  However, when I push through the 
> boredom and get into a flow, I'm usually fine.  I've heard many artists talk about the difficulty they have in getting started 
> in their studios, spending too much time procrastinating.  I think procrastination also relates to this notion of boredom as 
> defense mechanism.  My (unproven) hypothesis is that we sometimes feel boredom when we're stretching our brains, almost like a 
> muscular reflex.  The boredom is the brain's attempt to maintain the status quo.  However, making art is never about the 
> status quo.
> Dealing with subjects like programming and math also seems to generate the sensation of boredom in people.  Some people find 
> it uncomfortable to think too intensely about analytical abstractions.  I don't think this phenomenon has anything to do with 
> one's innate intelligence: it just seems we each develop cognitive patterns that are hard to change, especially as we get 
> older.  As I've learned programming over the years, I've experience a lot of these boredom sensations.  At times, I've even 
> (theatrically) wondered how far can I stretch my brain without going bonkers.  I think it is especially scary for some of us 
> to develop the less-dominant sides of our minds (or personalities).  As artists, that is often (but certainly not always) the 
> left side of our brain (the analytical side).  However, I firmly believe that we will be more self-actualized if we can 
> achieve a left/right brain integration.  I even conjecture that the world would be a better place if more people perceived 
> their reality through an integrated mind -- so make code art and save the world!
> Well, enough of my blathering.  Let's start Processing!

I long ago noticed and have recently been thinking about the same things, although reversing the right/left viewpoint and being 
more nuanced about one analytical area vs. another.  Generally, it is good to notice subject areas that you are uncomfortable 
with and to respond by investigating, learning about, and experiencing those subjects until you are no longer uncomfortable.  
Only at that point can you decide if it is worth spending more time adding depth in that area to your skill set.  This is not to 
say that you can't learn from others' advice or avoid things that are clearly wrong or unhealthy, but be careful to avoid only 
listening to advice from people who haven't conquered something obviously useful.  I.e.: "Math is too hard..."  The two Google 
founders are worth billions because of a little math and programming, pretty much proving that both are and will be valuable 
skills for some very long time.

The principle of confronting your uncomfortableness, even if it rises to the level of anxiety and fear, with direct action is 
the core of all successful treatments for paranoia, PTSD, and obsessive / compulsive disorder.  PTSD, at its root cause, is 
literally being in the habit of avoiding even thinking about the traumatic event(s), and then recursively avoiding thinking or 
doing anything that triggers those thoughts.  All of the many, and sometimes severe, side effects follow from that.  You have to 
get into the habit of directly confronting those bad habits, whether they are bad habits of thinking or of nonsense sequences 
such as tics or obsessive / compulsive disorder.  Each and every time you notice these things, you have to do the uncomfortable, 
opposite thing that the habit is erroneously pushing you toward.  This is also related to clinging to self-deceptive ideas: You 
must develop the reflex to detect and replace broken ideas and patterns of thinking.  Only by gaining a lot of insight 
(education, reading, thinking) and maturity (living, watching others) can one do this fully and effectively.

This principle is also the core action of learning, expanding abilities, becoming "self-actualized" (scare quotes only because 
few people have thought about the concept), and of really living.  In other words, periodically noticing and 
resolving-by-gaining-competence what you find scary, uncomfortable, or hard is the path to success and one of the core methods 
of being happy.

BTW, Processing is very cool and one of the best ways to learn programming, create cool visual things, and easily publish the 
resulting program on the web:


Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net stephendwilliams at gmail.com LinkedIn: http://sdw.st/in
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