On a recent balmy evening, my husband Ron and I took a walk down our dirt road after dinner. The sun had set and the sky was laced with pink clouds glowing against the azure sky. There is a field at the bottom of the road next to the babbling creek, and thousands of fireflies were beginning their ascent for their awesome mating display. Standing in the middle of the field was a doe and the tiniest fawn I’ve ever seen, possibly just born. They froze and we froze. Slowly the fawn lowered itself to the ground. The mother moved away, trying to draw our attention elsewhere. The fawn buried its head deep in the grass, making itself a tiny brown spot. We moved on, and Ron said, “How does it know to do that when it’s just born? That is so amazing! To understand threats and be able to respond at birth! And we humans can’t do anything!”
In her latest book, Whole Brain Living, Jill Bolte Taylor proposes that when we are born, only one part of the brain is online. She calls it Character 4. This is the frontal right and is responsible for bliss, living in the moment, our connection to something higher and pure love. According to her, that’s how we enter the world, and the rest of the “characters” or parts of the brain come online with exposure to the environment and experience.
I keep trying to understand how this could have happened. Why couldn’t we have been born with the ability to stand up right away? To recognize edible flowers? To formulate words? To perceive danger? Because of this crazy plan, each human ends up having to figure it out, and turns out differently: not just in looks, but in thinking, perception, beliefs, tastes. Instead of all of us turning out looking and acting like carbon copies of our parents, we veer off into directions our poor parents can’t even imagine. (Although I do remember seeing an embroidered pillow in a store that read: Mirror, mirror on the wall, you are your mother after all.)
We see and respond to everything differently. Some of us gasp in delight at the sight of fireflies, others don’t even notice them. I was out bike riding with Ron and we turned down a country road. At the beginning of a road was a huge, electronic sign that blinked: Bridge Ahead Closed Indefinitely. It was at least 5 feet by 8 feet. I rode to catch up with Ron to warn him to slow down at the bottom of the hill. “Why?” he asked.
“Because the bridge is out.”
“How do you know that?”
We got home, I made some iced tea and couldn’t find Ron. He was outside on his knees, photographing a tiny blossom in the garden. I had passed that blossom a dozen times and never seen it.
I was raised to read signs. Ron was raised to smell the roses. Thank goodness we found each other. According to Bolte Taylor’s book, I live in Character 1 (the analyst, the boss woman) and Ron lives in Character 3 (Whoopee! Let’s play!) Of course, sages have been saying for centuries that we are all a collection of characters – whether we look at Jung’s archetypes or Gurdjieff’s “many I’s”. You just have to hope there’s a reason for this.
With all of us turning out so differently, inhabited by 4 – 1000 different characters, it’s inevitable that there will be friction. We will never be like a herd of cows, slowly moving together across a field. There will always be one of us wandering off, another with a better idea, another who thinks she’s smarter. Maybe we can’t get along because that is actually the plan. Maybe nature needed a bunch of creatures who argue, disagree, misspeak, compete. Creatures who preen, resent, strive and struggle. Maybe all this friction serves the planet in some way.
Otherwise, we’d just be like deer.
Someone once pointed out that when people come in for an Awareness Through Movement® lesson that they all have an individual walk. But when they stand up at the end, they move in a similar fashion – softly, easily, with less tension. Are we becoming like cows? Or are we aligning towards the possibility of harmony? Does changing how you move change which “character” you are? Why not try one and find out?
Here is a lesson I taught recently that might open up the question. Enjoy!