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If You Want to Flourish, Develop Your Router

Insane people often have impaired right hemispheres. Unfortunately, we probably all have impaired right hemispheres.

Photo by Compare Fibre / Unsplash

The devil gave Stubbe Peeter a magical belt that transformed him into a wolf. For 25 years in the mid-1500s, Peeter would don the belt, transform into a wolf, and commit atrocious deeds, ranging from murder and cannibalism to rape and incest.

When the authorities finally arrested him, they executed him with extreme, ahem, vigor.

Was Peeter a Satanist?

Or was he really a werewolf?

Werewolves exist. It's a clinical fact: deluded souls think they are, indeed, wolves. It's called "lycanthropy."

The werewolves are probably pretty sane compared to the folks with Cotard's delusion. Those folks think they're dead and often demand they be buried.

And Stubbe Peeter would probably appreciate a guy with Capgras Syndrome (the belief that someone has been replaced with an imposter), who cut off his stepfather’s head with a chainsaw to see if batteries and microchips would fall out.

All three of these folks--the lycanthropists, Cotards, and Capgrasses--have something in common.

They all suffer lesions or other damage to the right hemisphere of their brains.

In fact, that's what almost all mental problems– paranoia, anorexia, and schizophrenia--have in common: a malfunctioning right hemisphere.

Iain McGilchrist catalogues the instances so thoroughly in Chapter 4 of The Matter with Things, I wanted to accuse him of "piling on."

I have a graphic that I call "The Metaphor." It uses the operation of the Internet, modem, router, and digital devices to illustrate how we connect to Reality.

The right hemispheres of our brains connect to the Tao, much like a router connects to a modem. The right hemisphere mediates Reality and then sends the left hemisphere into the world to handle the necessities of life, while the right hemisphere attends to more important things, like poetry and drinking beer with friends.

If the right hemisphere is damaged, the left hemisphere receives no, or only weak or damaged, signals from the right hemisphere. The left hemisphere's connection to Reality is impaired.

Enter Stubbe Peeter and that guy who's asking you to bury him.

What's even more troubling?

The would-be werewolves and would-be cadavers might not be irrational. If you grant their premises--"Okay, you are a wolf"; "you are dead"--their positions about life might be fully rational.

And that's precisely the problem.

If the router is wobbly, the digital devices keep working.

If the right hemisphere is wobbly, the left hemisphere keeps working: acting, acquiring, coming to conclusions, offering its opinions . . . it keeps rationalizing, whether (or not) its rationalizations have a good connection to Reality.

Even scarier: the left hemisphere is incapable of even knowing whether it's connected to Reality, and, worse, always assumes its Reality connection is solid, no matter how impaired.

And perhaps the scariest part of all: modern Western culture is an edifice of the left hemisphere. We're all, to some degree, left hemispherics.

We all need stronger routers, but to get those stronger routers, we need to resist and recoil against the presumptions of our left-hemispheric culture. It takes conscious effort, much like a healthy diet in the United States requires active resistance against the processed food that is promoted everywhere.

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