Friday 23 March 2012

A Short Film about Hemispheres

The Master and his Emissary* (2009) is a brilliant book by writer and psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist about how the left (smaller) hemisphere of our brains, the part that deals with facts, figures and stats, has put itself in charge of life, and usurped the right hemisphere’s rightful place, which is in contact with all life and the realm of feeling and the senses, and is really the ‘master’.

McGilchrist shows how this situation has become endemic to and expressed throughout the whole of Western culture with our obsession with numbers, quantification and control, along with the denial of the living planet and our own hearts and imaginations.

The left hemisphere organises information, edits, excludes and deals with 'functions' and reason. The right hemisphere includes, sees everything and is where empathy, creativity and imagination are to be found. Ideally they need to be in relationship. The fact is they haven't been working together for quite some time, even though they're sharing the same space in all of our heads!

The results of this hemispherical divorce are being played out to catastrophic effect not just in ourselves and our personal lives but also within the wider social and planetary contexts.

The book is 600 pages long and does takes some time to read and digest: Click here for the PDF of the Introduction. I kept it by my bed and read it steadily over several weeks.

For a whistlestop tour of The Master and His Emissary watch this excellent animated 12 minute film, The Divided Brain, made by RSAnimate and narrated by McGilchrist. That the filmmakers managed to condense this complex subject and book into such a short time and make it coherent and graspable to laymen such as myself, is astonishing. Perhaps they've discovered how to help the hemispheres communicate!

This was one of my favourite films of the past year. Everyone should watch it - at least twice!

Image from The Divided Brain by RSAnimate

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