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Your Control Freak Left Brain

A conversation with Dr. Iain McGilchrist on how to get the most out of our physical and spiritual existence.

Iain McGilchrist is a former Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, an associate Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford, a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Consultant Emeritus of the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital, London, a former research Fellow in Neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, Baltimore.


Adam Jacobs: Dr. McGilchrist, thank you so much for joining me today. We don't do a formal introduction here, and I also just want to mention that we have just rebranded. So we have been called Beyond Belief for the last couple of years and as of today, (and I think this is extremely fitting), we are now called Feed Your Head. And so I'm excited to talk to you about many matters related to the head and the brain and other extremely pertinent matters.

And I also just wanted to say that I've been reading your new book, the Matter With Things, and I often get accused of flattering my guests, but it's not really true because I only get in contact with people whose work I deeply appreciate. And I have to say that this book is epic. I am loving each page is so rich, there's so much to think about and I love the way you tie in the notes on the margins and it's really deeply engaging. And first I want to just congratulate you on having produced that and I hope that many people read it.

Iain McGilchrist: I'm delighted to hear that. Thank you very much. It means a lot.

Adam Jacobs: It's my pleasure and I hope to get through the entire thing, but I am carefully going through it at my pace. But I have developed a number of questions which I am hoping you can help me to understand. I also watched a number of your videos and you speak at length and quite eloquently I think about, of course, the difference between the left brain and the right brain and also some of the misconceptions that people have of those differences.

But you do seem to lay a certain, let's call it danger of the left brain and its influence on an individual and on society as a whole. In my estimation, (and I'll get back to this later in our conversation), I hope I was already familiar with these distinctions, but not from this source, from another one which I'd like to get to. But to me it seems like the left brain, (I think you describe it like this also) is like it's like a teenager that is highly, highly confident and often wrong about things. Why would you say is the left brain worldview dangerous?

Iain McGilchrist: Well, what one has to understand is why it is that we have two largely separate areas that are each capable of on their own attending consciousness at all. And very briefly, I believe this is for evolutionary reasons that we need one part of our brain to be able to focus on a target so that we can get it swiftly and cleanly and quickly. And these are things that we know we need like food, if it's a bird to pick up, a twig to build a shelter and so on. So it's a getting and grabbing telos. I would say the purpose of left hemisphere is to enable us to survive by manipulating things. Now this is so important that a whole mass of the brain is dedicated to looking at the world from this perspective, and that leaves the other hemisphere, the right hemisphere to see the rest of the picture. So its attention is entirely different.

It's broad, sustained, open, uncommitted as to what it may find. And vigilant it's on the lookout for everything else, for predators, for skin, for conspecifics. Now if that's the case, the left hemisphere is not really interested in anything much other than the acquisition of stuff and the manipulation of stuff in the world around that is its sole target if you like. And I would say that there is a hierarchy of values here. I often refer to the philosophy of Max Schaler, the early 20th century German phenomenological philosopher who Heidegger said was the greatest philosopher of his age, who had a system of values, a pyramid of values which begins from the most basic, which are those of utility and power and works up by various degrees towards things like the beautiful, the good and the true to the peak of the pyramid, which is the sacred.

And I think that the right hemisphere is better able to understand these higher values, higher purposes down the left. So if you want to amass stuff become powerful, with power, the left hemisphere is very important and its power is very seductive. So people find it hard to go without manipulating and using that power if they can. And usually when I say usually, I mean in the case of three civilizations in the West that I know reasonably well, the Greek, Roman and our own, there is a tendency towards (over time) values of everything that is subtle, hard to express better implicit and is really the realm of everything that makes life worth living for most of us, namely the business of love, the business of sex for that matter, the business of art, the business of religion. All these things are not well treated by being turned into sequential propositions of an entirely literal kind.

And so they're better served by, and this is the reason I believe that we have developed music, poetry, art, myth, ritual, narratives and religion which give us a sense of other values and other possible destinies other than that of just becoming the most powerful person around. So you can see that if we incline too far towards the picture of the left hemisphere, which I believe happened in later Greece and in later Rome, it's not surprising that those two civilizations eventually collapsed having overreached themselves. And I believe that we are heading for doing the same thing. A final point to make I suppose would be that we all know the importance of having a map and being able to diagram things and have a theory about them, but it's a big error if you mistake the map, the theory or the diagram for the complexity of reality.

Reality is not at all like that map. That's not a criticism of the map. A map would be hopeless if it had all the detail in it that the world has. But nonetheless, I believe we now live in a world in which we credit certain very simple schematic ways of thinking with ultimate truth, which they have no chance of embracing. And as a result, we all suffer from the degradation of social life of our environment because we misuse it. We think it's just stuff for us to use and we turn away from the divine because we see only a mechanical determined scientifically reductionist universe in brief. That is the story.

Adam Jacobs: So that seems almost self evident. It seems absolutely correct to me. The interactions I've had, I've been privileged to speak to amazingly some of the great minds in science. And in looking at it in retrospect, it feels like they're processing everything in a left brain type of process by which questions that I might pose about, let's call it higher meaning or immaterial concepts that almost don't penetrate because of this dedication to this other way of thinking. In fact, it just seems crazy to them that you would even bring it up. So the channels of communication are so difficult as a result, but you do interestingly point out that the right lobe is more open-minded from the get-go and even incorporates the position of the left brain into its own thinking. So it would seem advantageous to lean towards a right brain type of thinking over a left as one sort of encompasses both.

But let me pivot for a second to some of the physiological aspects of this, which I am going to admit off the bat that I'm very ignorant of. And so this question may reflect my ignorance, but still it occurred to me and I still would like to know. I looked up some of the functions of the liver by way of comparison, and I discovered that it has 11 different things that it does. So one liver, 11 functions, why wouldn't it be that our one brain could have diversified to encompass both aspects of the attention paying that it does? Doesn't it seem strange to develop all, we didn't develop 11 other livers. How is it that we developed almost another brain to go alongside the one that was already there?

Iain McGilchrist: Well, I'm not sure that that's a parallel, but let's think about it. If I may, I'd just like to preface what I say with response to what you earlier mentioned, which is your feeling that when you've interviewed scientists, they've tended to think that your questions about purposes and ideas and values beyond those that can be reproduced and measured in the lab is rather strange. My own experience is that physicists are very much more open to all of this and indeed the right hemisphere of the brain is much better able to encompass than the left many of the rather paradoxical findings of modern physics.

Curiously biology has gone on being very rooted in a rather rigorously mechanical vision and that is I'm very pleased to report now beginning to show great signs of change in development towards a quite different take, more consonant with that of the right hemisphere. But to come back to the idea of the liver having 11 functions, of course the brain has thousands, possibly millions of functions and it's a massively complex organ. And I'm not sure quite what it is that you are getting at here, but I'm not certainly saying that it only has to functions or anything like that. So could you clarify what the point is here?

Adam Jacobs: I think it's weird that the brain is divided as it is. Physically, and I've never seen one in person, but I have seen it demonstrated on video that if you hold it up, yes there is the corpus callosum that combines it, but they almost appears to be two different brains. Okay. So to my complete layman's point of view and asking a question that probably has no answer, but it struck me as odd that it would develop in such a way.

Iain McGilchrist: That's a good question and perhaps to pique your interest more, but I think you will know this if you've got into The Matter With Things at all, the Corpus callosum, this rather exiguous band of fibers at the base of the brain that does connect the two hemispheres is in fact a mammalian invention. So animals up the evolutionary tree until mammals don't have it, they just have two separate hemispheres or proto hemispheres. So why is this? It seems to me that it is of enormous philosophical importance because it has to take together two different visions of the world, each of which has something to be said for it, but each of which will interfere with the ability of the other one to act if it intrudes too much. So in a way somewhere, we have to make a decision at the moment this part of the brain is going to deal with this better and we think that that place is in the Tectum or according to some people the Tegmentum (doesn't really matter) of the midbrain, which is the head part of the brain stem, which has a millisecond to millisecond control center that directs attention.

But attention is very complex. It's certainly not just controlled from there. But I think what if one thinks of the difference between the two hemispheres and the Corpus callosum’s function to keep two things apart as much as to bring them together? This is the way to think of it and what really piqued my interest in the hemisphere story, many things I learned but a couple when I was a medical student. One was that most of the traffic across the corpus callosum, though it may be technically excitatory in transmission, nonetheless effectively results in inhibition in the contralateral hemisphere.

So one hemisphere is really saying to the other one, you keep out of this, I'm better at dealing with this for the time being. At any rate, they cooperate, but part of cooperation is not treading on one another's toes. I give the example of an operation in which there needs to be a surgeon and there needs to be a scrub nurse, but they cooperate. The scrub nurse doesn't try to make the incision. So that is the way things operate with the two hemispheres.

Adam Jacobs: I mean obviously it works in terms of the structure, however it came to be is doing its job so to speak. But I wonder, and this is another, and forgive me if this is a weird question,

Iain McGilchrist: I like weird questions.

Adam Jacobs: Okay, good. So it also seems to me sometimes that the fancier the brain gets the worse it is for human survival. And so what do I mean by that? If the goal is just procreation, it's to eat and mate and continue, mosquitoes do that extremely well. Pine trees do that extremely well. And here you have these humans with all their complexities and their issues and baggage and you have phenomena like Romeo and Juliet who kill themselves even though they're fertile young people over some abstract concepts called love. And you have the priesthood, very fit people who remove themselves from reproduction and so on and so on. Doesn't it seem sometimes that if this is an evolutionary goal to pay attention better so that we can survive that that actually inhibits survival on some level and we would do better if we had a much more primitive brain?

Iain McGilchrist: It's a beautiful question and it reminds me of Alfred North Whitehead's saying (one of my most important influences as a philosopher), the secret of persistence is never to have been alive. In other words, if you really want just to persist inanimacy does much better than life. And even in the case of life, some of the most ancient organisms there are actinobacteria in the base of the ocean, single examples of which may be half a million years old. So if the purpose of evolution is to survive better, it's not what has resulted in. And as you say, a tree may be a thousand years old, but poor old homo sapiens is 70 or 80 years old on average. So this brings one obviously to the question. So why bother with life? And I think that the wholly reductionist approach to the nature of existence is wrong in so many ways and so deficient in ability to explain things.

But I've come to a position laterally after reading and thinking and writing a lot that the divide between animacy and inanimacy is not as absolute as I had thought it to be. I mean obviously, it is an enormously important distinction, but it isn't the only distinction or the key distinction among those things that exist because not because (as some people might think) life can be approached viewing it as a form, a special form of animacy, but because animacy can be approached seeing it as a very special case, a kind of asymptotically reduced case of what it is to be alive. And that is because I think of the thing that life brings as being a capacity to respond to whatever there is in the cosmos and Incy does up to a point. So after a few million years, the rocks crumble and earthquakes happen and storms appear and things are eroded.

So the forces of nature shape the inanimate world. But as soon as you have animacy, you have a creature that is a billionfold more prompt and more capable of responding on a whole range of levels to what is going on. So I think that is what life brings, and of course, it follows from that idea that life needs to become more complex and more capable of responsiveness. Now I see everything. Let me just, if I may have a little aside here, I see everything as a matter of response and I say that relations are primary in the universe that before there is a thing, there must be relations. So the cosmos is a web of relations out of which certain points in the web attract our attention and we call those things and we name them. But everything is relational. And if it's true that God is love as is held in many religions, then God is fundamentally relational because there is nothing about love that is not, I mean, if it's not relational, it's not love, which explains why there might be a creation at all actually.

But in that creation, the human being occupies a very special place because we are able to respond to a whole higher set of values that I can't say that other creatures don't at all, and some may to some degree, but we are surely the prime example. And at the moment there's a terrific trend which I understand to sort of diminish humanity in an effort to, I dunno, expiate our sins for having been overlords of creation in a somewhat selfish and destructive way. But I resist this because all that is true and I think that we should value all life. I am absolutely with that. But I do think we ought to pause before dismissing the special role of the human being. And sorry, interrupt me if I'm talking too much, but one of the things I love is I've only discovered in the last 10 years the Kabbalah and the story of the beginning of creation.

And what I love is this threefold thing, Tzimtzum—withdrawal for the space in which there can be something other to relate to. Then the vessels that are put in the space and are shattered by the spark, or at least eight out of 12 of them, I believe are shattered by the spark that comes out of Ain Sof. And then it's this important phase tikun repair in which human beings, I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, are thought to have a special role that they can repair these vessels bigger and better and more beautiful than they originally were in which I always think of that Japanese ceramic art kintsugi in which repairs are made with lines of gold. But anyway, I just wanted to add that in because it's another thing that I often think about when I think about the special calling of the human being.

Adam Jacobs: Well, that speaks to me very deeply what you're saying. And I actually have prepared a question along those lines so you correctly anticipated the direction I'd like to go in, but that makes total sense to me, and I just wanted to draw it out and hear how you would treat it, but I couldn't agree more with that analysis. And I think it's a very important thing that you're saying. And I think that people, we've been, I'll be careful saying this, but we've been victimized to some degree by the dominant way of thinking about these matters which have left people in a great sense of despondence about the nature of reality and the nature of their lives by which they have been so reduced that they become hopeless in the viewpoint that you're articulating now, it seems to me reaches out a hand of hope that there is much more to this reality than meets the eye. So I think it's very critical what you're saying. And along those lines, are you familiar with the work of Bernardo Kastrup and his analytic idealism?

Iain McGilchrist: In fact, I'm a member of Essentia the foundation that he started.

Adam Jacobs: Oh, is that right? So I was fortunate to speak to him a number of months ago and he's a fascinating individual and I read his book, Materialism is Baloney, which gets right to the point, but he articulates there, I guess what is known as the brain as filter concept, which for anyone watching who doesn't know what that means essentially, it's not that the brain produces consciousness, actually rather it's the opposite. It sort of inhibits consciousness and there is a universal consciousness that we're tapping into on some level. So do you agree with that assessment ultimately? Is the brain sort of holding us back from a more intense connection or how do you feel about that?

Iain McGilchrist: I'm delighted to hear that Bernardo is saying that now. I'd understood that he had a more typically idealist vision, which I want to qualify because yes, I mean ultimately I say there are only three possibilities for the brain and consciousness. Either it emits it and nobody has the slightest idea of how that could possibly come about despite a lot of hand waving about complexity and it could transmit it. But I think very importantly, it permits it. In other words, it's able to produce a certain stream, which is my consciousness, but which is never really separate from consciousness as a whole. And I actually hold consciousness to be the primal stuff of the cosmos. So it is the ontological primitive. So I agree with this position entirely, and I think it was also one that Henry, not Henry, William James had, he has this rather beautiful image of his voice.

What is my voice? It's me in a way, but what is it actually? It happens only because there is an obstruction where the air comes out of my lungs, the larynx. And if it weren't for the larynx inhibiting the airflow in certain ways, nothing creative would happen. I think there's a very strong relationship between resistance and creation, and I think one can see this everywhere. And I sometimes say just for shorthand, but it helps people who haven't perhaps thought like this. One of the things you can ask is what is friction? Well, we all learn that friction is what opposes motion in our high school physics, but it's also what starts motion because without friction I couldn't move, you couldn't move and no movement would be possible. So it's very importantly creative.

And I see that the friction, the sort of thing that appears to be obstructing or negating can itself be the important element in creation. And here I think of the creation of say Michelangelo’s David that he didn't put it together. Instead, he had a block of stone and he spent a couple of years or more throwing stone away and that's all he did. All he did was to throw stone away and there it was. And removing stuff can also be a creation.

Adam Jacobs: Yes. Okay. So I'm happy. I'm very happy to hear that you're in support of this concept and I hope again that more people begin to take it seriously and consider its implications, which I think are great. So let's transition again in my mind, each one of these questions is moving us forward, and I was happy to discover that you read poetry online and have enjoyed many of your recitations. I am fascinated by art and its relation to all of this that we're discussing. And it's on the one hand it seems like such an abstract thing to engage in the making of tones that symbolize nothing. And again just like you said, there are just disturbances of the air. Why should they have any particular meaning or why is it important to organize words in poetry along certain rhythmic structures? What is being conveyed? And this is a big question and we probably could have spent the whole time talking about this, but in your estimation, why do people make art? And as a corollary to that, why is there even a need for people to express themselves? What's that about?

Iain McGilchrist: Very good questions. And as you possibly know in a formal life, I taught literature and research literature in Oxford. So I see that as absolutely essential to my existence. Well, first of all, we are relational beings and we relate to three very important things, which it's not just a hunch of mine are very important, but there is a large body of evidence that demonstrates that they are important, the relations to other human beings in a stable society where we share our lives and share our values together, the togetherness and the sharing with nature and the togetherness and sharing with God. So as I say, these are two-way relations. They are responsible relations, in other words, the responsible from either party, but each party holds a responsibility in a way for the other and nourishes the other, and respects the other ideally. And so this produces something where we are not content with the insights that we have and perhaps the very deep feelings that we have unless we can share them.

And there's a way I can share it, I could have and indeed have lost a partner, and I could go down to the pub with you and wail about it and explain about it and say how very sad I feel, but far more intentionally I could write I in many great poems in the English language, how exactly about this experience of loss. And they are so profound that when you utter the words, you are already enwrapped in another world and you can practically feel the hair on your body standing up as you read the words. So it's a completely different experience. And art and religious rituals and so forth have the capacity to convey this deeper sense, which as the romantic poets who were I think geniuses of insight into the nature of existence, they would've seen this as the ability to withdraw the cloak of familiarity that settles over experience.

It's what Shelly wrote about in his defense of poetry, that imagination is what takes the veil away from what has become stale to us through custom and allows us to see it again anew for the first time. And this is really what Wordsworth within Coleridge meant by the imagination in Coleridge's term, the primary imagination. It's a shame that the word romantic for most people signifies a sort of letting go of mental rigor because actually, the works of the romantic philosophers and poets are, in my view by far the most insightful of the last 400 years really. And I'm talking here about Schelling and Hegel many others. If I start doing Hagel and Schlagel, I sound like Monte Python.

Adam Jacobs: Yes.

Iain McGilchrist: So there we are. That's what I'd say. And then the thing that is so special about it is that in the case of poetry, and you said it's just disturbances in the air, and of course that really is what music is, but I suppose language automatically brings with it conceptual meaning. But I suppose that what poetry does is in a way to act against language, its language using its own force against the deadening effect that language can have. It's again, revivifying language. So it's bringing words into a new relationship in which something new is seen about them. And interestingly, the parts of the brain, the right frontal cortex, which are able to see irony, humor, and implicit meaning are also those unsurprisingly that see humor in which something can be suddenly put in another light and the connection makes us laugh. Speaking of Monty Python, that's a lot of what happens there, but also it is the part of the brain that underlies empathy.

And so again, this business of engaging this part of the mind has to do with making connections with other people. My feelings and their feelings and the kind of art that doesn't show this or doesn't allow. This is an abuse of art in my view. And some of this has happened in the last hundred years, but I see good signs that music is beginning to repair itself after an era of enormous sterility in which it pretended that it was okay to sound off the sound of a vacuum cleaner or just sit in front of a keyboard for four minutes and 33 seconds and all other kind of clever ideas that a sharp 16-year-old might've had at high school. Hey, this is a good idea, but that's not art my dear. No, it is not.

Adam Jacobs: You're talking about John Cage?

Iain McGilchrist: It was a passing swipe at John Cage.

Adam Jacobs: He has some stuff that is actually quite good, but yet that was very out of the box for sure.

Iain McGilchrist: But people like Arvo Pärt and so on, and there are many others now writing who I think are really producing beautiful music.

Adam Jacobs: And just quickly, would you just agree with me that society as a whole would be better off if we focus more on art and less on politics?

Iain McGilchrist: It certainly would.

Adam Jacobs: Okay. Yeah. So it's another thing that needs to be done is to promote to people exactly how great some of these works are and how rewarding they are to engage with. But I have time, unfortunately for two more questions, which hopefully we can tackle in seven minutes. They're both big questions, but which lobe of the brain is affected during mystical and or psychedelic experience? Or is it both equal?

Iain McGilchrist: It would be a slight race of time for me to go into this because I have controversial views about psychedelics. I don't believe it's anything to do with hemispheres. Actually, if anything, it has to do with malfunction of the left hemisphere. But I think what happens with psychedelics is that the frontal lobes are basically quieted and therefore they're normally filtered again because it's a set of filters. The function of the frontal lobes in brief is to inhibit the posterior parts of the brain. And again, this is highly creative inhibition, by the way, limits are creative. Let us get that message out there. It's not creative to do away with inhibition and to do away with limits, but I think that's what's going on. And it's not hemispheric. I have a brief aside on it in the matter with things, but I'd rather, if we've only got a short period of time, I'd rather talk about other things.

I mean, myths I think are only understood by the right hemisphere. That is pretty clear. Even a narrative is far better understood by the right hemisphere of any kind. So if you tell the story and ask the isolated left hemispheres, if you tell it, it won't retell the story in the order of events that make sense to a human being. And it's the whole point of the narrative. Instead, it will classify elements in the story and there'll be three that look alike. So it'll tell those and it'll tell another category. So it completely loses the flow. And this idea of flow is central, I believe, to our understanding of everything of human beings, of the cosmos, and so forth. It is not a bunch of discontinuities put together. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is about a flow that is rather like a melody. By the way, I don't have a hard ending if you don't. But anyway, if you have a formula that sticks to seven minutes, let's stick to it.

Adam Jacobs: Okay. So you mentioned Lurianic Kabbalah earlier, and before I was familiar with your work, and I'm familiar with The Master and His Emissary as well. And I knew these ideas but I would've described them in terms of the Sefirotic Tree. In other words, I understood that what you would call right-brainedness as something called Chochma, which is an expansive big-picture type of thinking. And I would've thought of Bina as the left brain. And of course, and so depending on your taking the academic or the traditional approach, either hundreds or thousands of years ago, people were writing about these matters and they were planting them specifically on the right and left part of the head. So my question is, how is that possible? How could these people have had any inkling into these matters and have described it in those terms?

Iain McGilchrist: Well, I think it's because it is something we are aware of by intuition, by introspection. So when we look at our own brain processes, we are aware that there is a sort of coming together and also retentional conflict between two ways of attending to the world. And at the beginning of the opening of part three of the matter of things, I quote a myth of the Onaga people who are part of the Iroquois. And it is about two brothers, one of which is more knowing and seeing than the other and how they need to work together because each needs the other, but that they mustn't get too close. Otherwise, the good brother, the one that has oversight, will fail because of the actions of the rather jealous upstart other brother. And this story you can find all around the world, you can find it in every culture. And it's also, for example, it's in the Ching, it's in the Vedanta. These stories are everywhere. So the idea is something that people have noticed for themselves long before there were any MRI scanners. So I believe it is a profound insight into the human condition.

Adam Jacobs: Interesting. So it was just known, it's in the air. Okay. So that's an example, therefore, of great insight that was available through spiritual traditions that maybe we would say that science even caught up with over time. And therefore maybe others are worth taking seriously because I can't tell you how many times I've seen online in discussions and whatnot that religion and spirituality have nothing to offer a public discourse and are complete nonsense. And I've spent a good amount of time trying to offer people an alternative to that view, that there actually is an incredible world of richness and insight that is available by plumbing these traditions.

Iain McGilchrist: Indeed. And I believe that without them, we will not be able to rectify the mess we've got the world into through our blinkered way of thinking. And those remarks that you're receiving are typical of this very blinkered left hemisphere way of thinking. And it's not people's fault because our educational system has cut itself loose from the things that would've helped complicate the world picture in a good way, make it beautiful and complex and rich, i.e., the humanities and indeed at least an openness to the possibility of a transcendent realm.

Adam Jacobs: In the last minute or so that we have. And I hope we'll be able to speak again because I've really enjoyed this. And I know you've been asked this before, I've heard other people ask you this question, but just for the sake of a short video we'll make out of it. If you had a manifesto for how people could rediscover their right brain, what two or three things would you recommend that people could engage in that would open up that world for them?

Iain McGilchrist: Yes. Well, you probably heard me say that this is the demand of the left hemisphere. I want three bullet points, sort it all out. And I don't think there are any, but certain things would be very helpful. Question your assumptions. What is it that my assumptions are failing to reveal to me? Because every truth hides another one. And in order to see things, you need to be aware of what is being hidden by the dogma that you hold. In fact, suspect all dogmas for a start, learn to see both sides of a question. At school. We were taught to argue for a point and then turn the other way and argued the exact opposite. And we would be scored, if you like, on how well we did opposing our own argument. I think one should practice listening to others and not judging, but being empathic.

If they differ from you, that doesn't mean that they're a worthless person, it means that they might be open to a civilized conversation with you. And if they're not, then that's their problem and one has to leave it. But I think that the idea that there should be civil discourse is extremely important. I think people should learn the technique, which is comes from couple therapy. One person speaks, somebody wants to say something, say, no, no, wait, wait. Let him or her have her say. And then the first thing you do when it's the other person's turn is say, what did you just hear said? And it's fascinating because often it's something quite different from what the person thought they were saying, and this is a revelation in itself. So I think all those things are good. Obviously. I think that practicing prayer and practicing mindfulness are very important.

Mindfulness being a kind of stealing of the left hemisphere specifically so that you are not verbalizing, you are not judging, you are not conceptualizing. You are trying for the first time just to be there for once rather than off somewhere in your head. I think that our educational system really has destroyed the continuity of our culture by preferring only STEM subjects. STEM subjects are fine, but they're not really an education. They teach you techniques, but really it is only to be able to understand history, philosophy, literature, music, and these things that will give us an insight. So to return to these, to spend time listening to them, to spend more time in nature, not on your phone, but actually being aware of the beauty that is around you and tuning in if you have a way of doing so. And to begin with, it might not matter how that was done because at least it opens the door to the prospect of something greater, something beyond our knowing. If we could have that humility to know that there's much beyond our knowing, that would be a wonderful thing.

Adam Jacobs: Well, Dr. McGilchrist, that was like I said, a really stimulating and insightful and fun conversation. And I really appreciate your time. And furthermore, I'm going to recommend that people go and check out your work, whether online or in book form. If I had the resources, I would buy one for every home in America and make it required reading and whatever little thing I can do to publicize your work, I actually think it's quite critical and I wish you a lot of success in getting your message out to as broad an audience as possible. So thank you so much for being here.

Iain McGilchrist: Thank you very much. I've thoroughly enjoyed it, and I hope we can talk again.

Adam Jacobs: Okay. I hope so too. And enjoy your time in Savannah.

Iain McGilchrist: I will, to San Francisco soon.

Adam Jacobs: Okay. Thank you. Thank you so much, and hope to talk again.

Iain McGilchrist: Talk again. Bye-Bye.

Adam Jacobs: Okay, bye-Bye.

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Feed Your Head
The Secret Chord
A forum for Philosophy, Science, Spirituality, and the Arts.