Saturday, November 1, 2014

Isn't It Curious That...

One of the greatest assets for any living thing, be it human or animal, is curiosity. It is the basis of extraordinary creations and there's one simple thing you need to do to nurture it in yourself. We read all the time about procedures to enhance our curiosity, how to produce greater creativity in ourselves and all manner of programs and tricks overflow our mail and the vast trove of electronic media available to us.

How many times this week alone have you been bombarded with yet another sure-fire way to get that old creativity machine lying unused in the recesses of your brain to burst into new life? Don't they offer new ways to expose your hidden abilities, practice methods to use or a simple step-by-step recipe that will surely make you into a newer you? Of course you have. All of us want someone to give us that golden formula that will mean we'll be able to crank up and spit out wonderful stuff whatever it is from a new, stunningly useful app to a bestseller or a blockbuster film. We all want it.

Years ago, while doing some reading for a course I was taking at the time, I came across an article by someone who was new to me. He was a neurobiologist (stick with me here) who appeared to be breaking new ground in theorizing about the basis of some of our behaviors. Actually, he was wondering why there seemed to be a relationship with certain behaviors or disorders in left-handed persons. The rule he used for himself, and which I have come to adapt for myself, is to see two things that might have a relationship after I note something similar in each. For me, once it happens, it seems so simple and obvious that I can't believe others haven't seen it.

Then I begin to ask what he did and it is, "Isn't it curious that..." and the "that" part is where the magic lies. You feel as though you are beginning the equivalent of an investigation with all the skill of a detective solving a crime. But there's no crime here. There is a mystery and the key may lie in your hands just as it lay in the hands of others who have failed to ask that simple question that began that journey for truth.

Who was this genius and theoretical "mentor" of sorts to whom I refer? None other than the incomprehensible Dr. Norman Geschwind. Yes, the name may be very new to you and you may want to stifle a yawn right about now but you're also curious regarding what he did and if you can, somehow, use that technique for what you do in your life. Yes, you can.

Before his premature death in 1984, Geschwind felt he had unlocked the mystery regarding a few things that seem to be specific to left-handedness and, in fact, there was a Geschwind Syndrome. Forget about all the pejoratives we use for those who are left-handed. Did you know that the word sinister comes from the Latin or French word sinistre for left? But we see it as malevolent and representative of evil, don't we? How difficult to be one of those people in a decidedly right-handed world where even surgical instruments are primarily made for the right-handed.

What were the features of this syndrome? They included, according to Geschwind's original studies with Dr. Peter Behan, unusual brain development that was clear to anyone looking at brain scans. But no one had really explored what that difference might mean in the lives of these people. Geschwind, taking a page from Louis Pasteur's "In the fields of observation, chance favors the prepared mind," decided to see how that might play out. He found learning disabilities, stuttering, migraine headaches, autoimmune diseases, like ulcerative colitis, myasthenia gravis and celiac disease seemed to be inordinately tied to those who were left-handed. Other, later, researchers found problems with his conceptualization of such a connection and it began a few rounds of neurobiology polo with much back and forth before his death and since.

The syndrome may or may not exist but what Geschwind has provided for all of us who now know of him and his work is that you begin with that simple question of, "Isn't it curious that..." and then you work your way from there to new explorations. Happy hunting.

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