Archive for August, 2012

There’s a terrible tendency these days to reduce the practice of Medicine to a slavish following of protocols and guidelines. In society there is a strong drive to uniformity and conformity – but that drive doesn’t come from individuals. It comes from the machine-like models of corporations and corporate management methods.

Iain McGilchrist says, in The Divided Brain,

We kid ourselves that doctors, teachers, policemen are there to develop a ‘product’ which we can then ‘get’ or consume. But this is nonsense. We don’t know beforehand what it is we are to go after and ‘get’, because it varies in every single case, and is dependent on a relationship between individuals.

Yet it seems we are increasingly pushed to demonstrate “outcomes” which are set before we begin, and are measured (presumably) after we have “finished.”

I think the prime job of a doctor is diagnosis – in the old sense of the word – an understanding. In other words a doctor’s job is to understand. To understand a person and to understand what they are experiencing, whatever artificial label of a named disease we apply.

Understanding is never complete.

So, diagnosis is never finished.

The GMC, in “Tomorrow’s Doctors”, says that a doctor’s job is to be able to handle complex situations and to deal with uncertainty. We need a bit more of that. We need to shift the focus away from tasks, outcomes and targets, all of which imply products and endpoints, to human beings. Every single human being is unique, and nobody, but nobody, can accurately predict how the future is going to unfold for an individual.

Medicine is a relationship between two people. One acting in the service of another. It can’t be reduced to measurable tasks. And it certainly can’t be reduced to the act of writing a prescription!

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“In Praise of Love” by Alain Badiou [1846687799] presents a simple but thought-provoking idea about love. He proposes that love is about the creation of a two person view of the world, instead of the single, individual one. As understood from a complexity position, what emerges in this linking up is greater than the sum of its parts

the real subject of a love is the becoming of the couple and not the mere satisfaction of the individuals that are its component parts.

Quite poetically he describes it this way

It is like two musical instruments that are completely different in tone and volume, but which mysteriously converge when unified by a great musician in the same work.

What really resonated most strongly with me, however, was his key insistence that love is about difference – about seeking difference, creating difference, delighting in difference…

what kind of world does one see when one experiences it from the point of view of two and not one? What is the world like when it is experienced, developed and lived from the point of view of difference and not identity? That is what I believe love to be. It is the project, naturally including sexual desire in all its facets, including the birth of a child, but also a thousand other things, in fact, anything from the moment our lives are challenged by the perspective of difference.


This is a different view of love from the traditional romantic love, which, sadly, I feel, too easily slides into something which turns one person into the love object of the other. I prefer Badiou’s idea – it’s more equal, and, ultimately, incredibly more exciting….

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Emeli Sandé sang a beautiful version of Read All About It, Part III at the closing of the London Olympics, and the line “we’re all wonderful, wonderful people so when did we all get so fearful?” has been running through my brain ever since.

(I’ve embedded the video link here, but you’ll see the Olympic Committee insist you go watch it on youtube….go on, click the link…it’s worth it!! The lyric in question comes in at the 2 minute mark….)

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What if you knew today is a once in a lifetime opportunity?

What if you knew the food you eat today you will never eat again?

What if you knew the food you eat today you will never have eaten before?

What if you knew you could tell one person today that you love them?

What if you knew you could be kind to someone today?

What if you knew you could be kind to yourself today?

What if you knew you could listen to your favourite song or tune in your music collection today?

What if you knew you could read one poem today?

What if you knew you could smile today, even if just for a few moments?

What if you knew you could live today as if this day had never existed before?

What if you knew you could live today as if this day will never come back again?

What if you knew today was a once in a lifetime opportunity to live today?

What would you do?

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Iain McGilchrist has released a short Kindle book entitled The Divided Brain and The Search for Meaning [ASIN:B008JE7I2M]. In it he presents an excellent precis of the ideas and findings he presents so brilliantly in his somewhat massive The Emperor and His Emissary.

The key to his thesis is that it is odd that our brains are divided into two asymmetric halves. Why is that? Why didn’t we just develop a single, unified cortex? There’s probably some big advantage in having two brains, but only if the two halves let us do different things. This is NOT an argument that the left does this and the right does that. It is NOT a claim that left-brained people deal with facts, and right-brained people are artistic. He dismisses such ideas as simplistic and erroneous. As he puts it –

Instead of asking, as of a machine, what it does – does it ‘do’ reason, emotion, language, imagery? – we should have asked – as of a person – what’s he or she like?

In other words, what are the different ways each hemisphere approaches the world?

He says that the right hemisphere primarily lets us be aware of the world, and looks for the connections, or the “between-ness” everywhere, whereas the left allows us to grasp, and, hence, manipulate the world.

The right hemisphere underwrites sustained attention and vigilance for whatever may be, without preconception. Its attention is not in the service of manipulation, but in the service of connection, exploration and relation…….One way of looking at the difference would be to say that while the left hemisphere’s raison d’être is to narrow things down to a certainty, the right hemisphere’s is to open them up into possibility.

These differences are profound and we need them both. the one helps us to pin things down, and the other opens us up to seeing change and possibilities.

Another way of thinking of the difference between the hemispheres is to see the left hemisphere’s world as tending towards fixity, whereas that of the right tends towards flow.

In his thesis, he claims that the left hemisphere way of engaging with the world has become unhealthily dominant and we’ve become stuck on its way of representing reality to us.

the purpose of the left hemisphere is to allow us to manipulate the world, not to understand it.

I highly recommend you get this book. You can easily read it through at a single sitting, then you’ll want to go right back to the start and read it again. If you haven’t read The Master and His Emissary, The Divided Brain will whet your appetite but it will also let you easily understand the basic premise.

The right hemisphere seems to be involved more with new experience, new events, things, ideas, words, skills or music, or whatever it may be, while they are still fresh, original and unique, and so to speak present, to the mind.

The left hemisphere abstracts and generalises, where the right hemisphere’s world remains truer to each embodied instance, and appreciates the unique.

Just stop and think for a moment what that means, and why we should want to re-balance our society by shifting the balance to the right hemispheric way of approaching the world…..


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Einstein  said that an important question to ask ourselves is “Is the universe friendly?”

It’s an interesting question because the answer you give influences how you experience Life.

If you think it is unfriendly, you are likely to see danger all around and to expect hostility. You are likely to respond by trying to control and conquer in order to be safe. If you think it is neither friendly, nor unfriendly, then you probably experience Life as random, brief and pointless. However, if you think it is friendly, you are more disposed to engage with an open-hearted curiosity, seeking to understand more and more.

This question which he posed is often considered in relation to thinking about the emergence of consciousness in the constantly evolving universe.

An article in this month’s Psychology Today refers to the question in this context. It’s worth a read, and concludes

Any inventory of the cosmos that omits us is like a survey of the body that overlooks the brain. In evolving the human mind, the universe has fashioned an instrument capable of understanding itself and empathizing with others. We are that instrument, and since we are part of the cosmos, we err if we judge it to lack kindness, love, and compassion. If I believe the universe is heartless, it’s because I myself do not love

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These are unusual nests, aren’t they? Like low hanging fruit from the trees, or lanterns shining on the lake.
Here’s one in the making….


You can see why the bird who makes this kind of nest is called a weaver bird.


Here’s something else unusual about these little homes…


The entrance is underneath!

Every single one of these nests is unique, because every single one is woven by the bird who is going to live in it. But they don’t want to be completely alone, so several of them build their nests in the same tree. It’s a little village. A small community. Every one of these communities is unique too, each one being in a different tree, each community created by a different group of individual birds.

The Universe has a creative flow.

Everywhere you look you can see differentiation and diversity, and the building of more complex phenomena from simpler parts.
Take a look around you today. Where do you see this creative flow in action? Where do you see diversity, uniqueness and the creation of links and connections?

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This is a shaded garden with a couple of gardeners working away. Can you see them?
I love the complex interplay between the canes, the slatted roof, and the way the shadows interweave.

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Every day there’s something amazing to see…..if you look, but look at THIS! Exceptional!


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