Beyond Theory – Experience and Attention
Have you had an unusual experience while being conscious of LH and RH attention modes? Mine doesn’t fit... View more
Have you had an unusual experience while being conscious of LH and RH attention modes? Mine doesn’t fit into any existing groups, so I thought I’d make a new one for interesting experiences.
I had a recent close encounter with a Grizzly Bear, and while I’ve told the story in person at least a dozen times, I’ve never spoken of the divided brain aspect I relate here. I tell this version on Channel McGilchrist because only someone familiar with Iain’s work could know what I am talking about.
Do you have a story involving direct experience of the attention modes?
Are you sure you want to leave ?
my letter to NYT
my letter to NYT
For what it’s worth, I sent this out today. I post it here because even if it gets ignored, if enough people take their swings maybe we can make it happen.
Thanks to all who offered feedback. I took every suggestion, although this revision is very different than the last. Improvements I can thank you for, while lapses in judgment and an inability to tame the word count are on me.
If three of us, or a dozen, or a hundred, all wrote to the same place, perhaps they would hear. A review in the NYT would put this in front of some very influential Americans.
[EDIT Jan 06]: Some context may be helpful here. That context is detailed more down below, suffice it say here that there was a conscious decision to write as if the NYT readers know of a few things I wrote before, none of it intended for publication. Based on prior experience, I made an assumption of respectful familiarity and earned latitude. It’s like I said in the introduction thread on the old Channel McGilchrist site – if I ever built up any social capital at all, then this (promoting the most consequential theory of our age] is how I will spend it.
To The Publisher
I respect your institution, but I intend to cancel my subscriptions and step away from the daily news. With circulation up, I don’t expect the loss of a reader to be concerning, however I write first because I learned a lot here. I thought I would return the favour; by submitting a request for review of Dr. Iain McGilchrist’s extraordinary discovery, which could be called the “Theory of Two Minds,” detailed in his book The Matter With Things.
I wrote twice to the Ezra Klein show about this. Since then however, I’ve considered that the decision to release Dr. McGilchrist’s theory “into the wild” might go far beyond Mr. Klein’s pay grade. Mr. Klein’s article from Dec 12 is one of his best in my opinion, and yet it lacks the critical dimension of this awareness of how our attention works. The EK Show transcript from Dec 13 lands thuddingly, because it is inadequate to discuss how we perceive time without discussing the two very different ways we perceive time. I don’t mean to pick on Ezra Klein – whose work I generally admire – I’ve been looking for examples to punctuate this letter and there are dozens to choose from every day.
Writing would be improved with this discovery on background, even when the writer disagrees. Grappling with the big issues: climate, racism, sexism, extinction, plastic, literacy, inequality, despair, imperialism, politics, war, toxic polarization, democratic collapse, mental health, historical injustice, political correctness, and the legacies of Black slavery, Indigenous erasure, and even the Holocaust, it is usually quite apparent when the writer is unaware of Dr. McGilchrist. The Theory of Two Minds is at the root of these issues and more, and while it can’t fix everything on its own, at least we’d understand how we keep getting stuck.
By now it is cliché to list our mounting existential threats. Even to say that our lifestyles are “unsustainable” is an abstraction, collapsed and stripped of meaning by repetition and familiarity. Words are tools, and we are beyond the ability to express, contain or fix the problems we created using those same tools. We need words, of course, but it helps to understand their limitations. Even metaphor can only take us as far as we’re willing to go.
Would you run a book review of The Matter With Things? If the reviewer finds fault they can have at it with all honesty. If you find that the oracular imperative to Know Thyself is as relevant today as ever, perhaps do a feature? Beyond that, assuming your intelligent staff and readership are as taken as I am, I would love to hear an implicit debate across opinion silos. At the very least, on the levels of principle, merit and even survival, a book review would be a step toward overcoming our institutional inertia. For comparison, I learned about two recent favourites, The Dawn of Everything and To Speak for the Trees in these pages, and The Matter With Things sits comfortably alongside, perhaps say as physics sits alongside biology and chemistry.
I acknowledge that this theory challenges notions and narratives entrenched over centuries. I understand too, that as a mainstream organization, ideas are typically reflected in these pages only after generating some critical charge. I propose Dr. McGilchrist’s discovery is ready to be heard, having surmounted scientific, academic and popular challenge for over a decade now. Hidden by design for 700 million years, yet running through every human life and all of human history, it comes as a revelation. It’s a skeleton key to the human condition, but that said, the implications take some time to wrap your head around – it’s the revelation that keeps on revealing.
I don’t see us correcting course without putting this awareness, implicitly perhaps, at the centre of our stories. Rooted in hard science, the Theory of Two Minds is our best opportunity to reconstitute healthy narratives about who we are and what it means to be human. One advantage we have over earlier societies, who fell into similar cognitive error, is that we can grasp it while it’s still happening. But if we fail to comprehend the wildly divergent nature of our integrated hemispheres, then soon it won’t matter if anyone keeps up with the news.
If the powers that be choose to bury this sciontific discovery, all hope is vanity. I personally will switch from desiring to extend the human race to wanting us cut down as quickly as possible, a rational proposition in context of all the others sharing the mystery of this carbon-based life. An earlier draft of this letter was half-finished at 20 000 words, so here I stop and hope that someone on the other end picks it up and carries it forward. The worst that could happen is an explosion of original thinking, and who would oppose that right now?
Please acknowledge Dr. Iain McGilchrist and introduce the theory to your influential readers. I appreciate your time and attention.