Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In defense of knitting when times are tough, part two

 When I ask people why they knit, the first thing I usually hear is that they like the "meditative state" they go to. So what's that all about?

Where they go is to the right brain, because activities that are 
  • physically repetitive
  • intellectually undemanding (which knitting isn't always, but perhaps we love it best when it is?)
  • and visually stimulating (although this one is optional)
put us in the right brain.

As we all know, we have two sides of the brain that specialize in different tasks. Here's what they are.

The left brain is the linear-thinking, pattern-recognizing side of the brain which works with the stuff of verbal, logical, analytic thinking. It loves language because it is a familiar, well-used pattern. It looks for clarity and logic in situations full of ambiguity and paradox. It loves rules and regulations because they are familiar patterns that simplify complex situations. It likes to separate things and place them into recognizable pidgeon-holes. This side of the brain holds our judge, our critic, our skeptic, our rule-follower. It does not like what it has not seen before so does not entertain new ideas. And it is very much aware of the passage of time. Much of our lives is dedicated to left-brain activity.

The right brain is the lateral-thinking, anything-is-possible side of the brain which works with the stuff of visual, relational, intuitive thinking. It loves non-verbal communication because it can process much incoming stimuli at once. It welcomes ambiguity and paradox, looking for relationships between things that don't normally go together. It prefers the truth of perception to the truth of rules. It likes everything and everyone to come together and be happy. This side of the brain holds our imagination, says "yes" to the universe, loves to imagine what it has never seen, happily entertains new ideas, and is unfailingly optimistic. It is also unaware of the passage of time. Not much of our lives is dedicated to right-brain activity.

But to the right brain is where our craft takes us--and we love  it. The right brain is a wonderfully positive and--yes--addictive place to which we go when we work with our hands.

Our left brains would like to tell us that this place is lazy, non-productive, and a waste of time. And so we feel guilty when we scrounge for time to knit. But the left brain is wrong!!! The right side of the brain is essential to the survival of humanity and should be regularly exercised and lovingly cherished! It entertains new ideas--and where would we be without those? It feeds the imagination--and where would we be without that? It is unfailingly otimistic--and how would life be without that?

We might well conclude that when times are tough we need the work of the right brain even more than we do when life is a smooth sail. And it is knitting--and acitivities like it--that take us there.

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