Thursday, July 29, 2010

whole not sum of parts

The German word, fingerspitzengefühl "finger-tip feeling" is used for tactfulness, unique insight, and particular sensitivity... as though one has a sense of large and expansive things at the tips of one's fingers. The term hints at the left brain, right brain integration that comes from the creative use of the hands. As you recall, the left brain is tuned to detail and linear processes, while the right brain is concerned with perceptions of the whole, the gestalt, the transcendence of boundaries, and what Jill Bolte Taylor in My Stroke of Insight called nirvana. The left brain is busy arranging things in logical sequence and explaining consequences, while the right is poised on the edge of intuitive response.

From a bird brain perspective, as described by Iain McGilchrist in Master and His Emissary, the left brain would be looking for seed in a field of sand while the right brain would be sensing the world for predators, friends and foe, and each form of attention, that of the left and right, is essential for survival.

With fingerspitzengefühl, one perceives not merely from seeing the world as a sum of parts, but by seeing only one or two parts representative of the whole, is enabled to gain a clear grasp of the whole thing. It is what we call intuition, or what one might call the wisdom of the hands.

I awakened many times last night, in a state of wonder. In my dreams there were things fitting together perfectly in unexpected, inexplicable ways. Remember that the right brain is not the explainer of things. The left brain is better at that, and the right brain's territory cannot be easily put into discursive form. And yet, it is there, as witness to things looming at the edge of explanation.

In schools we can measure the ability of children to perform in the left brain arena. We can measure their understanding of words and their retention and proper useage. But what are we doing for their intuition? For their fingerspitzengefühl? What are we doing to enable their translation of inexplicable things? What are we doing to enable their creativity and integration, left and right? And their integration of whole as being greater than the sum of parts?

That we have two hands, and two halves of brain, mind, attention, could be telling us something very important, that had best not linger in the forgotten. Imagine we are awakening from a very dreary dream in which the hands were folded at desks and excluded from education.

It is a new day. There is a crack of light on the horizon. And I call it the strategic implementation of the hands. Make, cook, plant, sew, create, put your hands to work, in recreation of self.

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