John of Montmirail liked to fight. He was a leading knight in battle; he jousted in peace.
But then he had a religious conversion and dedicated his resources to helping the poor, including the establishment of a hospice in his castle.
He once went to help a woman whose dying sores smelled so bad, that she was put in a separate room. John went into the room, dang near gagged, and rushed out. The matron in charge scolded him,
It is the stink of your sins that you smell.
It was a bizarre response. I always figured it was a medieval, non-sensical, melodramatic declaration by an overly pious woman.
Enter Iain McGilchrist
Not all emotions are created equal. Some are positive. Some are negative. And even emotions within the same category are better than others.
Consider sadness and disgust. They're both negative emotions, but sadness is associated with greater creativity and disgust with less creativity.
Sadness is also more right hemisphere-related.
Disgust is more left hemisphere-related (so is anger, btw).
Enter John of Montmirail's Nostrils
The dying woman's stench grossed him out.
What happened? Let's break it down:
(1) Stench enters nostrils . . . (2) John's brain says, "This is gross; get out" . . . (3) John flees.
But what did John's brain really say in step (2)?
It said, "John, this is gross [detrimental, harmful] to us; get out."
John fled because his brain had formed a harsh and uncompromising opinion. It may have been an understandable opinion; it may have been a correct opinion.
But it was an opinion and an adamant one.
The Left Hemisphere Likes to Form Opinions
Guess what hemisphere of our brains likes to form opinions?
The left hemisphere.
It is the hemisphere of action, and action requires a clear notion of how to act, which in turn requires a series of convictions. The left hemisphere needs opinions (little conclusions) to get the body through the day. As a result, it naturally gravitates toward opinions.
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