Woody Allen’s Manhattan. Long live Gordon Willis.
By: Po Bronson
The lore of pop psychology is that creativity occurs on the right side of the brain. But we now know that if you tried to be creative using only the right side of your brain, it’d be like living with ideas perpetually at the tip of your tongue, just beyond reach.
When you try to solve a problem, you begin by concentrating on obvious facts and familiar solutions, to see if the answer lies there. This is a mostly left-brain stage of attack. If the answer doesn’t come, the right and left hemispheres of the brain activate together. Neural networks on the right side scan remote memories that could be vaguely relevant. A wide range of distant information that is normally tuned out becomes available to the left hemisphere, which searches for unseen patterns, alternative meanings, and high-level abstractions.
Having glimpsed such a connection, the left brain must quickly lock in on it before it escapes. The attention system must radically reverse gears, going from defocused attention to extremely focused attention. In a flash, the brain pulls together these disparate shreds of thought and binds them into a new single idea that enters consciousness. This is the “aha!” moment of insight, often followed by a spark of pleasure as the brain recognizes the novelty of what it’s come up with.
Now the brain must evaluate the idea it just generated. Is it worth pursuing? Creativity requires constant shifting, blender pulses of both divergent thinking and convergent thinking, to combine new information with old and forgotten ideas. Highly creative people are very good at marshaling their brains into bilateral mode, and the more creative they are, the more they dual-activate.
Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.
Behind the scenes.
The concept of privilege came into its own in the eighties, when the women’s-studies scholar Peggy McIntosh started writing about it.
Is that the challenge—or the usefulness—of the idea of privilege, as you see it? That it asks you to combine an individual view of life with an abstract one?
When Tal Fortgang was told, “Check your privilege”—which is a flip, get-with-it kind of statement—it infuriated him, because he didn’t want to see himself systematically. But what I believe is that everybody has a combination of unearned advantage and unearned disadvantage in life. Whiteness is just one of the many variables that one can look at, starting with, for example, one’s place in the birth order, or your body type, or your athletic abilities, or your relationship to written and spoken words, or your parents’ places of origin, or your parents’ relationship to education and to English, or what is projected onto your religious or ethnic background. We’re all put ahead and behind by the circumstances of our birth. We all have a combination of both. And it changes minute by minute, depending on where we are, who we’re seeing, or what we’re required to do.
It seems as though, for you, talking about privilege shouldn’t lead to arguments; it should be a kind of therapy.
I wouldn’t say therapy, because psychology isn’t very good at taking in the sociological view. But it has to do with working on your inner history to understand that you were in systems, and that they are in you. It has to do with looking around yourself the way sociologists do and seeing the big patterns in the rest of society, while keeping a balance and really respecting your experience. Seeing the oppression of others is, of course, very important work. But so is seeing how the systems oppress oneself.
Worth a read.
"Some days are just one long Diane Arbus photograph."
— Marc Maron
JUST TAKE THE PICTURE ALREADY!
Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen.
Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.
Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men.