The Pendulum Swings Right
The world is now changing again, it appears. The logical and analytical skills that continue to form the basis of Western economies is slowly shifting, according to the savvy American business observer Daniel Pink in Wired (February 2005). The current “information age”—in which access to information (read: knowledge, education) is the most important economic engine—is changing into the “conceptual age,” characterized by a new concern with context, patterns and emotion. And that shift is taking place mainly in our brains.
Analytical, logical, and linear thinking are done in the left side of the brain. The right side comes into play when you are engaged in creating, making connections, or expressing emotions. This provides insight into the direction that Western society and the global economy are moving: a shift from examining small parts to looking at the larger whole, from cold logic to engaged empathy, from masculine to feminine talents. In other words, from left to right.
The question is, how does one go from spending all day inserting figures into spreadsheets or crack codes to begin to get more involved with telling stories to one another and connected in many other ways; solving intricate problems involving context and problems to simply survive? These right brain traits are fundamental human talents that just need a little polishing.
We must begin to develop the right hemisphere of the brain. In his book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age (Riverhead Books, ISBN 1573223085), Daniel Pink talks about the magnitude of change happening and that it is essential for parents to develop the six essential aptitudes or “six senses” – on which professional success and personal satisfaction increasingly will depend. Design. Story. Empathy. Symphony. Play. Meaning.
The left brain isn’t becoming superfluous, he notes, but it is no longer all we need to get ahead. Pink explains that the dawning Conceptual Age requires “the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities. It involves the capacity to empathize, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.”
Play is extremely important for humans from birth to death. Play is not meant to be just for children. It is a form of release and connection that can tap the creativity and can allow you the chance to connect with your inner child and the inner child of others. Play is a state of mind, but it is also a state of body, emotion, and spirit. Yes…it is something you do (playing games, swinging, playing “tag”, playing with dolls), but it is also something you watch others do, and gain pleasure from simply watching. It is often described as a time when we feel most alive, yet it is something we take for granted and may forget to do. It can be entirely positive, or can be dramatic (such as acting out a thrilling or suspenseful activity). Play can be used in many ways to not only stimulate creativity but as a way to transform negative emotions. We are hardwired as adults to engage in play, and it is crucial to our vitality to spend time with play each day.
The best way I know is to watch children and model what is one of the most basic human aptitudes, play. Play is any exercise, or series of actions, intended for amusement or diversion; a game. Kids do it naturally to find the place in this world and it helps to define meaning to those things around them. Adults crave play instinctively. There is a realization that the amusements and diversions we have today are not a new phenomenon. They have been a slow development from the beginning of time. Romans and Greeks had their theaters and circuses. England had its tennis and bear-baiting. Play, leisure, and recreation are all ideas that are common among humans. Play, leisure, and recreation are all notions of having fun.
The wonderful thing about playing is that everyone is successful at it. Don’t use playtime to test or stretch your workday. It is a time to feel good about yourself and each other–and to just have fun together. Perhaps, most important of all, play is fun. Years later, when we recall our life, it is the happy times spent playing with special people that we remember most fondly.