Monday, January 29, 2007

As I / You See It

Have you ever had the sense that "they just don't seem to be able to see it my way!" ? Do you know the frustrations accompanying the awareness that your very best presentation is slipping down impenetrable walls of incomprehension? Are the words "we seem to be speaking a language foreign to you" familiar? Please allow me to offer a glimpse behind the "curtain of frustration" that may be obscuring your vision of what is occurring.

All recollections of my schooling history have, as their accompanying background theme, the anxiety of falling behind. There began, from the outset of everything presented for assimilation, a sense of impending confusion to be followed by frustration and fruitless effort. I always had an awareness that, if I could somehow grasp the concept being introduced, I could master almost anything. (I later learned that I am a “spatial, concept learner” as opposed to the majority who are “concrete, data oriented learners.)” What created the tension that haunted me until my fourth decade of living, was the hourglass of opportunity quickly draining away those moments for seizing that subject’s ‘picture’ as soon as the subject was presented. All of education became an intense race to grasp every concept as quickly as possible lest I fall behind and lose any opportunity to keep pace with the class as new data was constantly being issued. I began to understand the dynamics of this life-long challenge through the prism of being a father responsibility for mitigating my Son’s challenges with cerebral palsy.

At his earliest sessions with therapist/educators, my son was presented with various exercises designed to determine his right/left-hand dominance. When I queried the professionals as to the significance of this determination, I was told that the dominant hemisphere of the brain determined how information was introduced to the brain for processing. This was my first exposure to a working use of what I had heard previously referred to in casual conversational terms as “Right Brain/Left Brain Dominance. Now I was being told that there was an actual and functional reality to what had seemed before to be a personality quirk. What made my son’s situation even more vexing was the obvious lack of communication between the two hemispheres of his brain. Quite literally, his left hand did not know what his right hand was doing. Upon moving an object or task from in front of his right eye to a position in front of his left eye… there was a distinct pause… as if his brain was saying “Hey now! What’s this?” So, there existed a clearly distinct separation of input mechanisms for his brain.

So, to what end does this little story serve you, My Dear Reader? I ask you to consider the reality that there are… all about you and in contact with you in every instance of human contact in your life… individuals who are taking in “the stuff of life”… that is, life’s data, circumstances, information, and experiences… through their own filter of brain function. They may “see” life through a dominant hemisphere that is strongly data inclined… the “just the facts please!” sort of functioning. These folk are the majority of life’s population (75+%). Or they may be of the minority group who must “see” the “picture” before being able to insert the details of the situational “puzzle.” Most likely, they are adept (to widely varying degrees) at having both hemispheres of their brain trained to share in the “input filtering.”

“Is this real?” you may ask. “Absolutely!” I can attest. For, from the earliest awareness of my son’s impending life of frustration, anxiety, and exhausting discouraging efforts (remember my earliest recollections), I charged myself (without an expressed understanding of all that was entailed and/or what would be involved in the quest) to saving my son from the loneliness that I had lived my life in as a person struggling with life in a world that marched to a far different set of drummers (and has little, if any, tolerance for anyone hearing a drummer of differing cadence.) I, therefore, made it a constant point of awareness for me to alert his brain to what was happening in every moment through playful gestures and comments that would ask his non-functioning hemisphere to join the game afoot with “Hello there eye (knowing that each eye is controlled by a separate hemisphere)… wake up! There is something good being said… or being done… or to be enjoyed here.” Over the years (he is now over thirty years old) of games, and challenges (“Did you see that? [something well to the side extreme] Or that? (something to the opposite extreme.)”, he has strengthen and reinforced those perceptual skills to the degree that most people interacting with him are unaware of any difficulties.

And, Dear Friend, I extrapolate from these years of learning how our individual personalities and temperaments not only take in life’s offerings but process, express, and live with those elements in a beautifully wide spectrum of differing ways. The experience reinforced truth that we have, for our individual election, the option to embrace the tapestry of intricately woven opinions, perceptions, contributions, and abilities offered by all of those with whom we share this planet… if only we will accept, respect, embrace, honor, and celebrate our wondrously created diversity. I have seen the beauty of the emergence of a happy, well-adjusted, socially comfortable, and loving young man who is my son… partly because he learned to accept his unique challenges and (with some humor) make compensations for the given elements of… himself. He is a living microcosm of what we as a world can be... if we will but opt to.

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