An Ode To Dr Iain McGilchrist And Learnings Of Love
February 20th 2024

I try to seek out and follow people who I judge as upstream of things. One of those people is Demetri Kofinas. Right there on the Hidden Forces home page, “Demetri Kofinas gets you access to the people and ideas that matter,” and that’s exactly what he did for me. I came across the work of Dr Iain McGilchrist through Hidden Forces early in 2023, and I spent the remainder of the year totally enamored with his work.

Dr McGilchrist's work on the coincidence of opposites reminds me of Bob Ross', "Waiting on the good times"

"Absolutely have to have dark in order to have light. Got to have dark. Got to have opposites. Dark and light. Light and dark. Continually in painting. If you have light on light you have nothing. If you have dark on dark you basically have nothing. There we are. You know it's like in life, got to have sadness once in a while so you know when the good times come. I'm waiting on the good times now."

I have finally found it!” I would naively mumble in my inner dialogue. I was convinced, totally sold, the work of Dr Iain McGilchrist was upstream of it all; Dr McGilchrist is definitely the most interesting person in the world. I thought that his work on the hemispheric lateralization was maybe the single most important body of work in all of recorded history. “Don’t think I don’t see the word ‘Christ’ in his name” I would half-jokingly remind myself from time to time.

This is what I do.

I came of age in the age of gambling (maybe I’ll write about this), and try as I will, I can’t help myself. To indulge in a broad generalization — a matter of the heft hemisphere for those following along — I suspect this is true amongst many people today, especially young adults. You are not alone.

Some days, I wake up not sure of anything. It’s as if all certainty has vanished, all the comforting qualities of being grounded gone. In these moments, it’s so easy to sink into nihilism, so I have to actively work against it. “…closure, no, no, nothing is ever over” but now try to say it with an intonation (right hemisphere) of optimism (left hemisphere). (By the way, the story of True Detective season 1 is the story of a man’s journey out of nihilism, ironically because he finally achieves a sense of closure after apprehending the bad guy). I suppose, in a macro-sense, in a zooming-out-of-Kendall’s-whole-life point of view, I’m in the Trough of Disillusionment. I am not alone.

I have doubts that the work of Dr McGilchrist is what it’s hyped up as, and don’t forget, doubt is the weapon of isolation, so I must actively resist.

Here’s where I’m at. I think the work of Dr Iain McGilchrist, directly presented from the man himself (expressions through intonations of voice, facial expressions, body language, and the like) or through the representation of his consciousness (articulation through words) may be the single most profound work of art I have ever come across (side note, “art” in our world today is still very much alive and thriving, counter to Dr McGilchrist's common stance that our post-modern world is robbed of art, but takes different forms than how we present it historically; art is subversive like that). I also think, any retelling of the work of Dr Iain McGilchrist is a cartoon representation of his mastery; an emissary masquerading as a master, as it were.

I think Dr McGilchrists' work has the propensity to change the world, but I intuit the schema of hemispheric lateralization will be recursively swept up by the left hemisphere, as it was by mine. It's a body of work which should not be taken literally, but should be taken seriously. And yet, I am almost certain we will see the ideas proliferate by being taken literally. And that's a shame.

What isn't a shame is learning from Dr McGilchrist the person. This episode, from The Sacred podcast show, I found to be elucidating on the life of Dr McGilchrist and his early years. I am reminded of The Parable of the Old Man and the Young Man:

"When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world."

I think this is the story of every great work of art. Encountered with directly from the artist, the work is significant, but from anyone else, the work is hollow.

I suppose that's the basis of any meaningful relationship; the uniqueness of every relation is what gives it meaning, and to forget this is to hollow ones self out, knowingly or unknowingly.

Dr Iain McGilchrist taught me the following, and for this, I am grateful.

"The best way I can put it is that it is the manner in which our consciousness is disposed towards whatever else exists. The choice we make of how we dispose our consciousness is the ultimate creative act: it renders the world what it is. It is, therefore, a moral act: it has consequences. ‘Love’, said the French philosopher Louis Lavelle, ‘is a pure attention to the existence of the other’." [reference]