Pragmatic Idealism and the Double Hemisphered Brain

This morning I heard Jacinda Adern, the newly elected leader of the Labour Party respond to a question by Guy Espinner, stating that she is a pragmatic idealist. I’ve never heard these terms put together in this way. What is a pragmatic idealist? The two words seem diametrically opposed!

When in doubt, go to Wikipedia – there are several dictionary definitions of an idealist; “Someone who envisions an ideal world.” “Someone who believes very good things can be achieved.” “The attitude of a person who believes that it is possible to live according to very high standards of behavior and honesty.”

A pragmatist is “someone who evaluates theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application.” “Someone who deals with the problems that exist, in a reasonable and logical way.”

I became acquainted very early on in my art and teaching practice with the nature of our double hemisphere brain and how the two spheres process sensory and verbal information.

Iian McGilchrist in his book, “The Master and his Emissary” has some of the latest research on the matter. He states that the left hemisphere is concerned with the survival of the self and the right is concerned with everything else. The right experiences life through the senses and hands its experiences over to the left for an evaluation.

The left being pragmatic, is well equipped for evaluating, achieving outcomes and solving problems. It is aware of the separate parts and deals with them in a progressive, linear fashion. The right is holistic, able to see the big picture and the relationships and connections between the parts. The right hemisphere is inherently visionary and idealistic because it is does not process self – concern. It is concerned with the world beyond the self and its connection with the whole.

I think, having thought about it a bit and done some research, that the two terms, idealist and pragmatic are complementary, just like the hemispheres of our brain. I am a pragmatic idealist! I nut out how to draw, how to paint, how to teach it to others by firstly creating a vision of how I would like it to be. I then gather information, techniques, strategies, do the creative play, the thousand plus (plus) hours and then release it back into the present well of sensory experience from whence it came.

In my perception we need both left and right hemispheres, pragmatism and idealism, in balance. (Ideally)


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