1991 Pulitzer nominee Body, House, Yard, Street

Drawing’s on the Blank Side of My Brain

Mirthology column, 1st run Wednesday 21 March 1990 in the Arkansas Democrat

By Ben S. Pollock
Copyright 1990 Ben S. Pollock

Research in the 1950s found the left and right halves of the brain have different functions, and experiments in the 1960s proved the left hemisphere is in charge of logical number crunching — straight-line thinking — while the right side intuitive connects parts — finds the whole picture.

The left half thus is the computer and the right the artist. There’s no accounting for taste.

This is insufficient to explain some human weaknesses. I can however, and the latest diagnostic medical equipment isn’t refined enough to prove me wrong. The brain is not halved but quartered. My drawing skill indicates I’m right.

The physical separation of the brain is lengthwise, according to computer tomography (CT scan, $800) and magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI, $1,100, with 10 wallet reprints another $20). Philosophically, the brain also can be halved again, crosswise over the hemispheres.

The bottom half is in charge of reluctance, inertia, timidity and laziness. These three halves — left, right and lower — comprise the Trilateral Omission.

What about the fourth half? The top is simple and pure. Its function is to hold a hat.

The brain bottom makes you work hard to get a noble project off the ground, then reverses electrical polarity and lets you off the hook a week or two later with absolutely no effort.

I can prove this by my desire to make pictures. Other people have the same problem in sticking to exercise, diet or even a schedule of reading the Great Books. We know these activities are good for us, and can be pleasurable, but such motivations are not enough to drive the Trilateral Omission.

This effect is wholly inactive during childhood. Then, parents and teachers enforce habits. The brain bottom matures in adolescence, when the onset of acne, dating and driving force judgment calls — and their consequences.

The decisions can be narrowed to choosing acts of commission and omission, hence the origin of the effect’s scientific name — the term “commission” disqualified for already having a reputation.

The Trilateral Omission has never been reported in any scientific or academic journal, and hence is not subject to verification. Aren’t we lucky.

The T.O. theory is the only explanation I have for being otherwise perfect — I exercise regularly, eat nutritiously, write creatively and play euphonium — yet have no will power to develop graphic skills.

I have tried to enjoy this hobby ever since taking an introductory art course in my senior year of college a decade ago For one to three times year since, I have taken evening drawing or watercolor classes. But when I wake up on a Saturday and consider whether to spend the morning with an open pad and sharp pencil, I go back to sleep.

Experts say adults must admit their childlike selves exist inside, which needs to be let out for self-actualization.

I know my childlike self. It comes and goes as it pleases.

That is why I need classes to be artistic. My inner child needs an authority figure. If the continuing-education teacher did not assign projects and supervise me, my paper would remain white.

I enjoy painting once I get started and have been told I have some artistic talent that, with guided practice, could blossom. For me, these incentives are insufficient.

The hemisphere scientists believe this is my analytical left brain intimidating my imaginative right brain into a paralysis. Psychologists have the solution: The right brain must trick the left into retreat. Easy? Sure.

I haven’t had a community adult class in about 10 months. For a fraction of the tuition I could train myself, my imaginative right brain realized. Buying a lot of extra art supplies would prevent the right from feeling guilty — a left-brain trick — when I create catastrophes by this trial-and-error teaching method.

My brain’s bottom half hasn’t fallen for this ruse. I think it is in charge of writing this column, as a matter of fact.

“I think.” Who’s doing this so-called thinking? Who’s in charge here? The top, hat-holder half?


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