BLAMING IT ALL ON PLATO

 

 

This post is about two fairy tale cities.  The one on the right as we view them from cloud 9, is full of music and art.  The people have rambling parks and gardens, which they  potter about in and change all the time.

 

The left hand city has parks too.  Their layout is quite formal, but they are very neat and orderly, and will be kept just so.

 

The ruler of left city is Dr. Spock, who likes to play 3D chess.  The other ruler designs and makes garden gnomes.  There is always something going on in both cities, in very different ways.

 

This metaphor of  the way in which the brain works is a right brain invention, a small effort of imaginative whimsy that the no nonsense, stick to what you know left brain would disown.

 

This picture is no longer thought to be accurate, we need both halves of the brain to function, and there is a structure which, like a football referee,  makes this happen.

 

Both sides always have a role, but there are differences.   Maybe the words leftish and rightish should be substituted for left and right.  Whatever the neurological workings, it seems that there have been trends of thought in history which can be identified by modern science.  I will play safe and write about Borg brain and Deanna Troy brain.  The Borg are cold man machines, who live in a ductwork cube, and Deanna Troy is an empath and counsellor, who can tolerate living with Commander Riker.  Both feature in Star Trek, as does Dr. Spock.         

 

Sometimes, and it has happened before in history, one tendency can dominate.  It happened in ancient Greece after the time of Plato, and, having read a bit about him I don't think he was at all cool.    

 

The source of information that I have used is a weighty tome written by a respected psychiatrist, and it was a bit of a stretch to get my head round at all.  The only problem is that the author only considers the works of other hi flyers like  himself, whereas I am interested in the common person.  Still, the general picture he gives has relevance.

 

Plato was the ultimate Borg brain, and he would not be doing with any of that airy fairy creative nonsense, despite starting out as a poet.  His influence lasted so long that it would have had a top down effect in Castleton.  

 

The author quotes a long and pretty dismal passage by Plato,   who wrote:-

 

"The work of painters and artists of all kinds, including poets are 'far removed from reality', and appeal to 'an element in us equally far removed from reason, a thoroughly unsound combination'".

 

In contrast to this miserablist philosophy, as the Western world moved into the arty Renaissance period of history, the author cites Shakespeare, whose characters are complex and unique, and in sufferance of conflicting demands.  They confound what might be expected of them, the  characters experience both good and bad aspects of existence, as do we all.  The imagination that invented these plays was of the Deanna tendency.

 

A cultural and psychological interpretation of all forms of creative art throughout history has been carried out, and the results are interesting.  Sculpture has passed from forms which expressed fluid movement and emotion to stiff and blank representations, then later another empathic revival asserted itself.

 

The book also includes a deep appreciation of poetry, and I had not realised the extraordinary acuity of such poets as Wordsworth.

 

 

I have been wondering for some time how it was that extreme violence could be meted out so casually, particularly in early medieval times and before. The Borg tendency, when it is prevalent, does not capture essences very well. .  Having spend my working life in 100% techie, and macho dominated environments like machine workshops , I can vouch for that. As a result, I tend towards certainty, regularity and measurable results.  Pretty Borg like, or is it just my age ?     Interpretation of the state of other people's emotions are an  indeterminate thing, which can leave Borg types flailing about. I suppose that the authorities of the time would have been schooled in an inflexibly literal application of dogma.  But surely illiterate commoners had not been subjected to such brainwashing, and did not bother with such niceties, and were a bit more Joe Grundy, or perhaps similar in nature to the unbiddable peasants that landowner Tolstoy wrote about in Anna Karenina.

 

 

The Mabinogion is a compilation of tales, of Welsh origin, possibly having a French influence, written no later than the 13th. century.  It clearly shows evidence of understanding of other people, and an appreciation of nature as well.  There is even a surreal flight of fancy involving interchangeable sheep, inserted just for the fun of it.  Not logical at all, as Dr. Spock would be quick to point out.  The characters are the kings and queens and knights of medieval society, bonded by a code of chivalry.  Their largesse did not reach far down the hierarchy, whole cities were slain by beseiging armies during these heroic times.   Even so, the tales were obviously appreciated by commoners, and a taste for the romantic did exist.         

 

Most people were raised in natural surroundings over which they had limited control or understanding.  Their social interactions would have been made up from storytelling, gossip and half truths, and extracting any sense from this ever shifting vagueness is the sort of thing the Deanna Troy  tendency does well.  I just cannot picture the medieval serf as a pedantic, picky and sniffily judgemental person.  No wonder society was divided.

 

Wikipedia has a good overview of The Canterbury Tales, written in 1385 by Chaucer, and it includes an assessment of the work which reveals the very different world view of each of the pilgrims.  They were not uni-mind automata, and did not  even have piety to bind them. 

 

 

The way in which we react to new situations, and our subsequent behaviour, is fairly predictable.  But the assumption that people are all the same through history is wrong.  Our perceptions have developed a great deal, and will continued to do just that.  A good example of the way in which the 13th. century mind was developing is the discovery by Giotto of how to represent perspective on canvas.   

 

The psychologist thinks that our modern Borg society is very geared up to value cut and dried rationality, especially if presented with calculations.  Since the industrial revolution we have made machines which then remodel us.  Quantity gets more appreciation than value and success is numerical, the more the better.  Statistics, though, need putting into context, there is almost always a wider picture.  But disassociated facts and bald figures are easy basis on which to make decisions.  We value decisive action in the shortest  possible time, which usually means repeating Borg certainties. 

 

That is my interpretation of the very gloomy view of modern society that the psychiatrist author holds.  I can see the point, but people would need a new sense of direction to follow if there were to be real change, with science as a foundation, but also with a vastly larger secular vision.  I think that is emerging, but it will be a while. 

 

Machines might become much less visible anyway, as nanotechnology really takes hold, and on a larger scale, they are already communicating via Bluetooth. The example of driverless cars, soon to appear in Milton Keynes,  (somewhere.........) shows that our Deanna tendencies might have the space and unhurried time for that mysterious process of creative inspiration.

 

I am not going to reveal the name of my source book, but will leave you to find your own psychiatric analyser.  The author is a Scot, lives on Skye, and is undoubtedly the business, with a glittering CV to show for it.  Such a rarefied and extensive work needs two or three goes, for me anyway. 

 

I am much more optimistic than the author, though his analysis is right.  After all, scientific culture has not shut down art - yet. The book left me almost as many questions as new information, and I don't have the knowledge for answers, so I will move on in a state of Deanna troy indeterminacy .  

 

I think my next book should be more relaxing. Perhaps I'll try Noddy Has An Early Night?     

 

The antidote to this stark Northern analysis comes, though, from can-do New York.  Daniel Pink has written a bestseller which predicts that business people who make use of creativity, lateral thinking that is outside any reiterative box, and empathic understanding are going to succeed in the future. 

 

Steve Jobs of Apple computers succeeded because of his novel approach, whereas, on a different planet in terms of lifestyle, the Amish community of North America thrive because of their commitment to service above all else.

 

That is it, I am off to exercise my right brain on more of my sub Vogon poetry, which I will then inflict on friends.

 

Carw.   

 

NOTES

 

The Mabinogion, published by Lady Charlotte Guest, no less, in the 19 th. century, is the earliest prose literature in Britain. Available on Kindle.

 

The Canterbury Tales was written by Geoffrey Chaucer.  An analysis of the Tales is on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Canterbury_Tales

 

There was, a few years ago, a CD set of the Tales in the local library system.

 

A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule The Future, by Daniel Pink. I have not read this book, which is hugely popular amongst business types who want to get ahead by stepping back.   

 

Various books about the fascinating Amish have been written by Donald Kraybill.

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