Stepping to the Right.
Not right in a political sense, but right brain-wise. Here’s a link to an amazing TED lecture by Neuro-Biologist Jill Bolte that my dear friend Lisa Brodsky turned me on to…
I find the trajectory of this talk to be completely astonishing. It goes somewhere this culture rarely goes… towards a heightened emotional state that is predicated upon transcendence of self, rather than anthropomorphic narrative tension or blatant commiseration. It’s exactly this kind of thing that got me interested in making music, since music has the ability to express things that go way beyond any kind of linguistic or symbolic approach to meaning making.
I should say, for the record, i’m a total ‘straight-edge’, and i always have been, and i’m not quite sure why… probably out of fear for loss of control. But with the exception of caffeine, which i am addicted to, i’ve never taken any other kind of psychotropic substance. and i have no judgement against those who have, but for some reason it’s been a strict self imposed rule for me. And, i think having those kinds of shortcuts off-limits to me, i’ve been constantly searching for escape from myself within the confines of my native chemistry. I think our music has often been misinterpreted as drug music, and that frustrates me.
For me the search for naturally transcendent experiences lead to me dropping out of society for a while, and hiking on the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia in 2001. I found a lot of things that Jill was talking about to be fairly accessible while hiking, completely without the aid of drugs or brain hemorrhages. Within the mind-numbing repetition and rhythm of walking everyday-all-day for 4 and 1/2 months, i definitely experienced a left brain quieting. I especially noticed it after the second month, when my body had adjusted to what i was asking of it. it was like being on this incredible plateau where there were no ups or downs, no excitement or tragedy, no story, just walking. it really reset my brain during a time in my life where i really needed it. Now that it’s a part of my muscle memory i feel like i can still access that plateau, when i’m in the studio, or on stage or with my kids, that makes my life infinitely more enjoyable. in fact i can’t imagine life without coming back to that feeling of transcendence daily.
To be clear, i’m not advocating living in the right brain constantly, or saying the left brain is flawed, but at some point, when you really start paying attention you realize that experience is granular, by it’s very nature, it is not smooth. one moment you’re here, the next you’re gone, and back and forth like that, all the time. i think there really is something to the leftbrain/rightbrain dichotomy that creates the architecture for this kind of granular experience, and results in the production of a lot of what we recognize to be beautiful or ‘art’. i’m saying, don’t choose, just know that you have a choice. my unsolicited 2 cents.
I just spent yesterday plodding through wet snow for hours trying to get to An Socach and failed to get to the top, I just ran out of time and the weather was changing so I had to retrace my steps.
I just came across this thought on a blog by The Books and it reminded me to appreciate the pure somatic experience of walking in wild places alone.
Maybe this is the link between culture and landscape? ( though I always though the left / right brain concept had been somewhat discredited) This left brain quietening, this accessing of right brain processes, a sense of transcendence from the run of the mill. It taps into something deep.