Recently a CNN news bite at the bottom of the screen said “Republicans say the bombing (Boston) came from the Muslim community” suggesting “they” need more scrutiny. Millions of people that live normal day-to-day lives side by side with everybody else are grouped for suspicion because of two deranged individuals. This seems like such a primitive fear response. Perhaps it is the left hemisphere verbal analytical classification that we use for so much conditions people to stick with their own groups, to limit ideas to what’s already believed and see only what supports their existing worldview. Perhaps it’s the conditioning in right or wrong answers that designates different as having to be wrong. Either reflects a highly limiting mindset. a rigid skin that needs to be shed. The human reward system is designed to encourage behavior that extends our boundaries, that embraces novelty. We wouldn’t get that extra dopamine from what’s new if it wasn’t good for us. Our brains are designed to reward what we should do more of, which includes stimulating curiosity about what’s unknown to us. This interest in the new is the action of learning rewarding us with endorphins to encourage continued growth. The cycle of seeing the new, becoming interested, then learning, is the action of the brain’s development, of feeling alive in the world while finding out what is possible.
The desire to tame the dangers of the world with labels and laws creates more separation between people. It creates an attitude of suspicion and mistrust that makes it hard to fully invest ourselves in participating, cooperating and appreciating. When you look at pictures of the earth from space there are no divisions, no national boundaries or political/religious states. We are a single species on a single world and its time to grow out of species adolescence and its cliquishness into a mature humanity, not so easily threatened by the unfamiliar, not so sure of our own right answers. The beauty of thinking in images and looking at them is that images are fluid, the whole seen at once, everything in relationship, rich with action and function and qualities that categories leave out. Thinking too much in categories misses the fullness. Ultimately we can’t even see the depth in ourselves, hidden beneath all the classifications, boxes we check on the forms.
Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist who speaks out against the practice of drugging people into the acceptable categories, wrote in his book “Beyond Conflict”, “Wisdom grows with the size of the group with which you identify.” The right hemisphere of the brain sees the whole, the more perspective that’s included the more accurate the whole. More time with imagery and less with words might help us break out of the shell of fear created by the cultural obsession with enemies and “Bad guys”, as adolescent a terminology as I can imagine that stirs the very few dangerously unstable among millions of peaceful people to dramatic acts of violence that can be more fuel for the media fires. The act of classification obscures the individual and substitutes the existing association with the categories contaminated by whatever media permeates the day. It blinds the classifier not only to people who could teach us something but also to personal dimensions not acknowledged by their own category. We are all the human species embedded in the world of living things. Some use their category to claim more than their share or the absolute right of their ideas for all. Brain science shows how thin those claims are. Each life strategy grew from what it had to experience. It involved knowledge and skills for a particular way of coping. What the authorities say may not fit the circumstance. From the beginning of life, for better or worse, we learn by example. Self-improvement is emulating who we admire, not what somebody says.