Skip to content

Miscellaneous: My First Written Words about McGilchrist. Plus: The Golden Hour and Abstinence

Written and published on December 19, 2021

The holidays approach with blazing speed. I’m a bit punch-drunk already with all the obligations I’ve had.

I’m actually mulling over the possibility of giving up booze. I’ve long held that teetotalling is a sin but abstinence is a virtue.

I would, of course, plan on simple abstinence, which means quietly ordering water with a lime. When people ask me what I’m drinking, I’d give that sly wink to imply I’m naughty, so naughty that I can’t even say the name of the drink for fear the devil himself would appear.

Or maybe I’ll just say that I’m drinking 99% grain alcohol straight from the still ("I had some left after using it to clean my shoes").

Of course, given my raging narcissism, everything in my hands just morphs into an occasion of self-centered sin. My abstinence will just spiritually twist into a form of teetotalling righteousness, so what’s the use? I'm probably better off a time-and-emotionally strapped drunk than a self-righteous ass ("Don't undersell yourself, Scheske! You can do both!").

The thing is, the social obligations simply don’t stop and alcohol acts as a multiplier. It both increases the number of social obligations and extends the effects. Maybe if I quit drinking, I’d be able to accept with more equanimity the social obligations that remain.

I’ll continue to mull it over. I’ve been drinking for 40 years. It’d be quite a shift in my existence, but possibly one that is long overdue.


The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist.

I think I agree with Econtalk’s Russ Roberts, who said he couldn’t in good faith recommend the book to readers, but at the same time, he couldn’t recommend it enough. It is an important book and, although I’m only on page 100 (out of 470) and don't for sure, it might offer the best account of the modern world.

It revolves around a story that Nietzsche told. A wise ruler governed a prosperous and growing domain. When it grew too large to govern directly, he trained emissaries to rule in his name, giving them, for prudential reasons, broad authority and little oversight. One emissary, his most trusted one, used his position to advance his own wealth and influence, became contemptuous of the wise master who didn’t exploit his power for his own personal gain, then usurped him. The domain subsequently collapsed into ruins.

I believe McGilchrist is saying the right hemisphere of the brain is the wise master and the left hemisphere is sent to do the master’s work. The right hemisphere transcends, sees the whole, pays attention to the Other. The left is self-contained, sees the parts, and is disconnected from the Other. The left is meant to help the right govern in a transcendent and whole manner, but in the course of modernity, the left has usurped the right and now rules in its own (self-contained, divisive, disconnected) right.

That act of usurpation—the left taking over the right—is, I believe, McGilchrist’s explanation for how things got so terribly wrong during modernity.

I’m hooked, though I can only read about 2-3 pages a day, such is the thickness of the ideas and the smallness of the font.


The Golden Hour. It turns out, I’m only three degrees of social separation removed (I know a guy who knows a guy who is friends with him) from Dr. Kevin Majeres (pron. “Majors”), who is a psychiatrist on the Harvard Medical School faculty and, I’m assured, a great guy who is both brilliant and holy. This podcast is all about leading a flourishing life and almost exclusively emphasizes the scientific angle, but it’s great to know the podcaster has a deep appreciation and grasp of the spiritual side as well.

I learned yesterday that The Master and His Emissary is one of his favorite books.

I love it when two things I love but never connected are, indeed, connected. It would kinda be like finding out gin enhances my ability to cultivate a flourishing garden.

I guess there’s an episode or two out there where he discusses the need to resist the afternoon nap and how to deal with tiredness in general. I’m really looking forward to those, even though I just got a nifty overstuff chair for my law office that pulls out into a bed. For years, I’ve slept on my office floor to get through the rougher spells, either for naps or just spending the night at the office. Now I have an actual bed at the office, which appears to be quite comfortable.

The chair, incidentally, is missing a few parts and the seller isn’t responding to my messages, so I can’t recommend this specific chair/manufacturer, but the concept itself? Pretty nifty.