THE BLOG

Beautiful Limits

08/08/2012 10:27 am ET | Updated Oct 08, 2012

Last week, I lived in peaceful oblivion of the machinations of the brain. Within a week, my whole world shifted... literally! Well, as Iain will say: "It was as if someone took a hold of my brain and gave it a sharp twist!"

I met Iain McGilchrist at the Legatum Summer School in the Tuscan hills. His lecture about the left and right brain was for me one of the most captivating of all the lectures I had the opportunity to listen to.

I sit transfixed as he breaks down into simple-man's terms the function of the right brain to mainly perceive a more holistic picture of one's environment. This contrasts the left brain, which gives more specificity in picture and focus. Iain asserts that both parts of the brain perform both functions collectively. The initial belief that the parts of the brain are individualistic is wrong. He explains it to be the yin yang situation, with the central divide (corpus callosum) keeping the different parts apart from one another and serving as a check for each other as well. Important also for the human being is the frontal lobe. It is one of the human organs that has increased in size noticeably in our recent evolution, he says. One of its main function is to inhibit the other parts of the brain, allowing for us limits. This allows us to take a step back from the world and use our judgement. "It is like reading," Iain says. "Too close, you can't see anything, too far, you can't read it." This is the one thing that really differentiates us as humans, in my opinion.

Listen to this fascinating thesis at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFs9WO2B8uI.

On an arts panel the next day, the conversation centers around art and its impact on civilization. The artistic process... As the conversation progresses, I feel propelled to draw the conversation to an artist's ability to let go. It is important that an artist in the the creative process not seek to strictly control the outcome of the process. Again, Iain latches onto this statement and ex-pouts the utmost need for the artist to free their work. This conversation takes my mind to the work of Andy Goldsworthy, an artist who really pushes the boundary of letting go and venturing into the unknown.

Several thoughts emerge on this hot afternoon... dancing to the silence, the creativity that exists and excels in the empty spaces, the between moments that create "aha moments," the notion that in creativity, the individual parts and even the sum of the parts may fail to capture the essence of a piece. It is all that and then the "magic" that snakes out. Gosh, all this talk of the creative process gives my mind a rapturous moment. I feel the churning of a volcanic ecstasy...

And then I sit with Iain and we talk about boundaries and the importance of them -- the paradox of limits and spaces and why they serve as critical channels to human existence.

Can you imagine life without limits? The idea frightens me and gives me pause. I have always longed for a life free from limits... suddenly I realize the folly of this wish. What do I seek to become? A floating, aimless balloon? In this limitless state, what will be my yardstick and comparative for success at anything I do? Can you imagine life without limits? The blessed limits of death, a freedom from all this? Can you see a limitless world where nothing ever ends? Freedom for eternity? Life till eternity? Never, never, never have a definition of enough? Enough pain, enough hurt, enough ambition, enough power, enough hunger, enough laughter, enough joy, enough work, enough, enough, enough... I feel like screaming from my mountain limits "enough!"

May we learn to live with limits and understand that enough is the point at which we become human again... ascended and not descended from our ancestors, the ape.