Sunday, March 14, 2010

From unity to forward movement

I don't actually know what this thing is; I found it in a sort of marine junkyard on the island, and just loved the play of light and shadow on it.

When I see stuff like this, some part of me stops because it is curious: what was that? What could it have been originally used for? How might it be useful now?

But another part of me is simply drawn to the light and the texture, the shapes and the colors, imagining a photo of it blown up large and hanging on a wall, perhaps in a long hallway with a lot of reflections and glass... Unfortunately the first part has a way of shaming the second part: What? You don't know what this is? Though intellectually I believe it is enough to drink in the glory of color and light without naming what I see, some other part of me calls that "pretty woo-woo."

Issues like these have a way of temporarily paralyzing me. I think it's because, having been the only child of an artist mother and an engineer father, I have an odd mix of right brain and left brain. The mix itself is actually hereditary: while getting his masters in aeronautical engineering my dad took all his electives in English literature, and though my mom was an artist and a classical pianist, she actually majored in science and worked for the government designing airplanes.

The problem -- that which paralyzes -- is not so much the conflicting points of view, but that there was this underlying assumption in my family-- which is true across most of our culture -- that the left brain and its observations are somehow superior to the features and understandings of the right brain. So the right brain becomes a sort of shadow side, an embarrassment, a source of shame. Intuition has no value if it cannot be explained; observation has no value if it cannot be quantified. So the right brain leaps to its conclusions and then has to wait, or even backtrack, looking for reasons so the left brain can claim ownership of the idea.

The Jungians tell us that if we can integrate our shadow side -- whatever that may be -- we will find new reserves of creative energy; that in achieving unity we can also acquire momentum. So I can look at my efforts over the last several years to honor and integrate my right-brained artistic side as perfect preparation for the graduate degree I'm hoping to go for.

I've been an artist and a writer for 13 years now, and many who know me have no idea I was ever anything other than that. So when I mention that I'm applying to grad school they assume it's for something in the arts, or maybe religion, and are universally startled when I say my chosen field is organizational dynamics -- something that has intrigued me all my life.

But I think it's precisely because of this mix between right and left brain, artist and engineer, that this is the field that draws me. Almost from birth I've been serving as a catalyst and communicator between different points of view, able to see different sides and trying to achieve unity and forward movement. By far the majority of my career was spent in the hi-tech industry, finding ways to comprehend complex left-brain solutions and then communicating them using right-brain techniques.

So wouldn't it make sense that I would be interested in working with organizations experiencing that internal struggle; helping them to achieve a certain unity by recognizing and honoring different perspectives; helping them to discover the energy and momentum that comes when you're willing to integrate your organizational shadow, whatever it might be?

But of course that's my left brain talking, attempting to justify a decision -- or at least a discovery -- made long ago. Because the truth is that even in my 20s thinking about organizations, and how they work, and helping them be more effective, just got me jazzed, and it still does. That's a right brain response. Now my left brain is attempting to do the followup work and get the credentials to bring that long buried hope into the light.


Maureen said...


I think it's marvelous you are pursuing a field of interest like organizational dynamics. I hope you won't feel the need to have to justify that, to yourself or anyone. I think your intellect, sensibilities, attunement, writing ability, and commuication sensitivities all favor you doing wonderful work in the field. Go for it (and keep us apprised).

nAncY said...

i love the blues and orange and the lighting.

interesting post as well.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Cool. Very cool.

and I think it makes perfect sense.

All of it!

Jayne said...

I think that is fascinating how you know so much about how you process things and how your right and left brain works. Organizational dynamics sounds like the perfect mix!