Sunday, December 21, 2008

Solstice and Hope

I’m watching the snow outside through the window from inside on the couch. I’m spending the day in my bathrobe as I recover from a virus. It happens to be Friday, my day off, and it’s snowing like crazy here. If I felt better I might bundle up and go outside to enjoy the experience. “Enjoy” is the wrong word. I don’t like being cold. It brings up a lot of sad feelings from the past. Winter in general is a hard time for me with its darkness.
2 Days Later… I’m starting to think about hope. My health has returned and some energy came with it. The sun is peeking through the clouds and reflecting brightly off the snow left behind by the past week’s weather. Still friggin cold out there, but there are moments of beauty – especially if you are out of the wind.
It gives me hope. I recently had the pleasure of attending a speaking engagement by Evan Handler. You may remember him as the bald, Jewish love interest of Miranda in the series, “Sex in the City.” Turns out he is a cancer survivor and also a fine author as well. (See: “Time on Fire" and “It’s Only Temporary”). He was on a book tour and came to Ann Arbor as part of it. I have read his first book and I’m on the waiting list for the second one from the library.
One of the notions I came away with from his talk was this: There is no such thing as false hope. Mr. Handler claims that false hope is an oxymoron. Handler was frequently being admonished by his doctors against false hope. He had a type of leukemia that at the time had a 90% fatality rate. Mr. Handler understood this to mean that a full 10% of people with his disease would be cured! In his description of the experience it seemed as if the doctors were trying to protect their own feelings, rather than those of their patients. The doctors had lost many patients. Evan Handler’s doctors expected their patients to die. It was hard for them to retain hope for individual patients in their care.

I can’t solve the mortgage crisis alone or rescue the auto companies in Detroit – though my tax dollars will be earmarked to this end for the foreseeable future. But I hope all will be well in the financial world. I hope the stock market stabilizes and grows again. I hope our work continues to joyfully sustain us. I hope our health stays solid.
Hope is defined by Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (mine from high school) as “desire with the expectation of fulfillment.”
My hope looks like this: We will have sunny days again. The days will get longer from now till late June. At the solstice I am reminded that natural light really does affect my mood. I need and want more of it. Hope is back with tilted axis of the earth in its orbit.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

World Class

I am lucky enough to live near a city with a world class art museum. The Detroit Institute of Arts. I’ve been going to the DIA since I was a baby. It was a place my mother loved to visit and she would sometimes take me. My mother was in high school when Diego Rivera was painting his famous “Industry” murals in the DIA courtyard. She watched him at work on the scaffolding after school.

The DIA became a second home to me. I hung out there a lot as an adolescent. I was an art student at Cass Tech, and the Art Institute enriched my studies as much as it comforted me with its familiar sights, sounds, smells, lights, and shadows. Returning to the DIA now comforts me just as much.

My favorite things today included a wonderful black and white photograph of Andy Warhol visiting Detroit. I saw photos by Andre Kertesz and Henri Cartier-Bresson. There is currently a special exhibition, “From Monet to Dali,” from the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Included were some truly luminous Monet paintings. Reproductions don’t do justice to the light captured by Monet. I could hear the sounds and feel the air and smell the summer captured in his paintings. They felt alive to me. Although I was surrounded by people, even jostled at times, it felt like I was the only one there. Everything fell away around me when I stood before these thrilling works.

It was a wonderful day. I love visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Whole Mind

From another book about the brain, “A Whole New Mind,” by Daniel H. Pink, I have culled the following: Roger W. Sperry (Cal Tech professor, Nobel Prize winner in medicine) reshaped our understanding of our brains. In the 1950s Sperry studied patients that had had surgery separating their brain hemispheres (as a treatment for epilepsy). He discovered that the established hemispheric dominance/subordinance theory of the brain was flawed. Yes, our brains are separated into two halves. But as he put it, “The so-called subordinate or minor hemisphere, which we had formerly supposed to be illiterate and mentally retarded and thought by some authorities to not be even conscious, was found to be in fact the superior cerebral member when it came to performing certain kinds of mental tasks.” In other words, the right wasn’t inferior to the left. It was just different. “There appear to be two modes of thinking,” Sperry wrote, “represented rather separately in the left and right hemispheres, respectively.”

The left hemisphere reasons sequentially, excels at analysis, and handles words. The right hemisphere reasons holistically, recognizes patterns, and interprets emotions and nonverbal expressions. Human beings are literally of two minds.
*We need both / ALL / parts of the brain to function at our best.*

Contrary to some 1980's beliefs about right brain - left brain functioning, high levels of creativity require an integration of right and left hemispheric functioning which, with repeated exercise, results in an increase of the micro neural pathways in the corpus callosum. If you think about that for a moment, then you can clearly see the benefits of an art centered approach to therapy.
I’m just sayin…