Thin moments are the ones when we
have no communication with
the left side of our brain and see
the world of facts explained by myth.
The right side has to be empowered,
or else the left, its enemy,
turns consciousness into a coward,
suppressed by its hegemony.
The censor on the left imposes
upon the right side its control,
as doctrinaire as God to Moses
when speaking from the fumarole
on Sinai’s summit when His voice,
like ram’s horns and the blast of thunder
gave left sides of the brain the choice
to hear the right revealed by wonder.
Peter Waldman (“Tragedy Turns a Right-handed Artist into a Lefty - and a Star in Art World, ” Wall Street Journal, May 12,00) , considers the implications of the transformation of Katherine Sherwood from a right-handed to a left-handed painter following a massive stroke. He writes:
In a 1998 experiment conducted by Dartmouth brain researcher George Wolford, participants were asked to guess if a light was going to appear at the top or bottom of a computer screen. The experiment was rigged so the light would flash at the top 80% of the time but in a random sequence. The human subjects invariably tried to find a pattern, and thus never guessed correctly more than 68% of the time. By contrast, rats, which don't have an 'interpreter' bullying their thoughts, learned to select the top bar every time, scoring 80%.
The experiment was applied to split-brain patients - people who have had the links between their left and right hemispheres surgically severed to treat epilepsy - and the right hemisphere responded much like the rats did. The right brain 'does not try to interpret its experience and find deeper meaning, ' concludes Dartmouth neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga. 'It continues to live in the thin moment of the present.'
That 'thin moment, ' or what athletes call 'the zone, ' is the envy of chess masters and pro golfers, says Dartmouth's Dr. Corballis. Many of them report performing at their best on 'autopilot, ' he says, when they are oblivious to what they are doing.
So does Ms. Sherwood. Left-brained or right, she worries now about losing the magic touch as suddenly as she found it. In recent months she has been regaining her mental facility for analyzing and discussing paintings in academic terms, which she lost completely after the stroke. She even gave some thought to teaching a graduate-level seminar next fall, something she hasn't done for three years. But she changed her mind.
'I suddenly realized I'd have the same mental burdens I had before the stroke, ' she says. 'My career's at a totally different level now, and I just feel obligated toward that.'
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Comments about this poem (thin moments by gershon hepner )
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