On this last day of 2018 I have spent some time, here in Kerala, under blue skies and in beautiful surroundings, reading an interview that Jonathan Rowson conducted with Iain McGilchrist in 2013.
Rowson, J. McGilchrist, I. (2013). Divided Brain, Divided World: Why the best part of us struggles to be head, (February), 1–100. Retrieved from https://www.thersa.org/globalassets/pdfs/blogs/rsa-divided-brain-divided-world.pdf
It struck me that the article has many messages for how I might wish to progress into 2019. Here are some quotes that seem apposite to the time of year and maybe more broadly.
“… we are caught in vicious circles. Many things seem crucial for a good life only because of the very mess we have got into. We have less and less time, so we need to rely more and more on gadgets and machines to shore up our lives – an aspect of the pressure under which we live, the lack of leisure. We need expensive foreign holidays when we want to relax, because we have made the places we live in so alien, so limiting and so sad.”
Since I am on an expensive foreign holiday, a month in India, it’s not surprising that this passage caught my attention. Of course it’s possible to criticise McGilchrist’s use of ‘we’, question who ‘we’ refers to and feel uncomfortable with the generalisation, but nevertheless, for me, there is some truth in this. I don’t find my home in the UK alien, limiting or sad, but I do feel more relaxed here in Kerala than I have for years, so it’s interesting to reflect on why this is and what could be changed at home to replicate this feeling.
McGilchrist goes on to say:
“… for many people their family is what gives life most of its meaning. It is these sort of things – the experience of love, of the spiritual realm, of a sense of closeness to nature, of music, art and the rituals and ceremonies that form an essential part of our sense of ourselves individually and as a society, that bring meaning in their wake. And there is barely one of these that is not under attack in some form as a result of the way we live now.”
These sentences also strike me as having truth in them – words to hold on to through next year.
McGilchrist then suggests that
“We must step back to see the bigger picture. Living headlong we skim over the surface of the world rather than allowing ourselves to enter into its depth. At the same time, as it might seem paradoxically, our view is too ‘close up’: always in a hurry, we are narrowly focussed on a few salient things and miss the broader picture. We need to find a more natural, a slower, more meditative, tempo. That way too we see more.”
“It’s in any case a good discipline to keep an open mind, not to think one knows it all, and to respect and to some extent feel in awe of what is greater than ourselves. By the same token, it’s a disastrous belief that we understand everything and have it all under control.”
The final sentence I selected to share in this post is
“… we must all, from the ground up be involved with and committed to resolving these problems – not just a government on its own, and not just isolated groups of individuals without government support.”
All these quotes resonate with me on one level or another and seem worth thinking about as 2019 is almost upon us. As I write this, it’s 8.30 pm here in Kerala and sitting here on the veranda of our homestay, the homes across the water are competing for which one can play their celebration music the loudest. But this small coastal community here in Kerala, when it is not New Year’s Eve, is a great example of a place with a more natural, a slower, more meditative, tempo.
Wishing anyone who reads this a happy and fulfilling 2019.