Café Wrap: Left Brain vs. Right Brain

Our first Socrates Café meet up of the season is on the books! <—  See what we did there?

The Big Q: Which serves you better: being right-brained (visual/intuitive) or left-brained (analytical/methodical)?

True to form, after our group decided on this question of the day, one participant sought to clarify: is the “you” the personal you, or the collective one? Well, it could be either so we allowed answers to either version.

One of the first considerations came from one who had spent his career as a salesman being methodical and linear in his approach. Later he realized that to better connect with his potential customers required certain creativity. This idea led another participant to cite Leonardo da Vinci.

Da Vinci is an example of one person who gained notoriety in his time as a genius in the fields of art, architecture, anatomy and science, presumably utilizing both the right and left sides of his brain remarkably well.

Want to know how Da Vinci did it, and how you can too?

If so, there are two books in our collection that cover harnessing the power of both sides of your brain that you’ll find interesting. The first, by Michael J. Gelb, entitled How to think like Leonardo Da Vinci : Seven Steps to Genius Everyday, offers the reader thinking exercises. The flyleaf summarizes this book this way.  

“Drawing on Da Vinci’s notebooks, inventions, and legendary works of art, acclaimed author Michael J. Gelb, introduces seven Da Vincian principles, the essential elements of genius, from curiosita, the insatiably curious approach to life, to connessione, the appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things. With Da Vinci as their inspiration, readers will discover an exhilarating new way of thinking.”

Another book suggested by a participant is [The New] Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. Our copy of this book, originally published in 1979, is a 20th anniversary re-issue having sold 2.5 million copies of the former. With 50 percent more material than the original issue, it is not only a book about drawing but it is also a book about freeing your mind to draw.

Care to narrow your reading solely to the left and right brain thing? Check out Chapter 3; Your Brain: The Right and Left of It.

Conversation about this book led us to consider a well-known perception exercise where the subject uses a picture that is oriented upside down as a guide. The person then attempts to recreate a drawing of the picture. This exercise helps to train the person to draw what she sees rather than what she thinks she sees or what the picture “should” look like.

As is often the case at the Socrates Café, the dissection of an idea occasionally veers a little left or right in other ways.

We covered such topics as the power of dominant hands, and why some people who have brain-affecting diagnoses like ADHD or autism tend to do less well on IQ tests (which are designed for left-brain thinking.)

In a study under the NIH, IQ in children with autism spectrum disorders: data from the Special Needs and Autism Project (SNAP), researchers concluded, “ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder] was less strongly associated with intellectual disability than traditionally held and there was only limited evidence of a distinctive IQ profile.” This study suggests that “different” thinking methodology does not presume a lack of intelligence.

If this assertion holds as a general baseline for most people who are diagnosed with ASD, we might consider that those so diagnosed have the ability to use the right side of the brain in ways others do not. A patron (whose particular form of autism is associated with left side thinking) cited her abilities as an example, and said that she felt odd knowing that while she is a left-brained thinker, she is also very creative. She believes that being left-brained, for example, helps her in her position as a stage manager because she can see small details in ways that others do not.

Every month we cover a new question chosen by the participants and we attempt to answer that question both based on our experiences and by listening to others’ points of view. We look forward to next month’s Socrates Café meetup. We meet monthly (on Zoom for now). Register now and we’ll send you a Reminder Link to access the meetup the day beforehand. See you then!

Café Wrap: Justice vs. Vengeance

Question: Does justice equate with vengeance and does mercy equate with forgiveness?

At the latest Socrates Café meetup we addressed this timely question. Though it’s two questions merged into one, the feeling (according to the one who submitted it) is that this question reflects two sides of the same coin.

Initially, one participant suggested that when feeling that one has been wronged, vengeance is individualized. If you are wronged, vengeance says, “You cannot treat me this way!” The reward for enacted vengeance may be that the actor is then feared or even respected. On the other hand, justice must be enforced by the state as it says, “You may not treat anyone this way.”

Justice is supposed to give power to the powerless, though one expressed the concern that sometimes justice is twisted to the point that it becomes vengeance. Laws are designed to maintain civil society, though the laws themselves depend on the culture in which you live; a democracy, an aristocracy, dictatorship or another form of government. Democracies, it was pointed out, have been instituted to usurp powers of kings and emperors.

We looked at mercy and forgiveness as being different from justice or vengeance. If you are a reasonable person responsible for a child, you might mete out justice by punishing a child to discourage the child from repeating the offense. But you should be merciful in that endeavor, ensuring that the punishment fits the infraction.

Juries serve justice by declaring guilty one who has been proven criminally responsible and we rely on them to do so. Likewise, we then expect the court to sentence the person accordingly. Ideally, an imprisoned criminal would be shown mercy out of respect for both the person’s humanity and feelings. We acknowledge that cases of crimes against persons rather than crimes involving property present the heaviest burdens when it comes to mercy or forgiveness.

One patron mentioned the idea that justice and mercy are often institutionalized as in hospitals and in prisons.

An individual can show mercy but feel unable to forgive, or they may show both forgiveness and mercy. Justice is meant to be proportionate to the crime and bring repentance or repair so that a person can become a productive member of society. On the other hand, if the criminal is deemed too dangerous to society as a whole, some believe the ideal punishment would keep the person humanely incarcerated until such time as that is no longer the case, while others believe capital punishment would suffice. We acknowledge the many inequities that can occur when laws are ambiguously written or applied unequally.

There are always diverse and interesting points of view offered at the Socrates Café about the question of the day. We welcome anyone who enjoys listening to others’ point of view and sharing their own from time to time.

YNGR: Do-It-Yourself Framed Quilts by Gail Perry

Time to get your DIY on!

Unique, framed artwork can add interest to your home’s décor. If you enjoy making gifts for your friends and family or creating do-it-yourself projects as a way to earn extra cash, you might want to check out Do-It-Yourself Framed Quilts by Gail Perry.

While quilt making dates far back to ancient Egypt, more recent patterns, from Pennsylvania and Ohio’s Amish and Mennonite communities, might be more familiar to you. These include patchwork, log cabin, crown of thorns, double wedding ring, bear claw, and many others popularized in the 19th century.

The nine small quilts detailed in this book, however, are not your grandmother’s quilts! There are florals, impressionist, landscapes, concentric diamonds and more. You’ll be inspired to create designs of your own.

35″ x 40″ Impressionist Quilt

Sized appropriately for wall hanging in typical frame dimensions:

15” x 15”

16” x 20”

20” x 24”

…as well as a handful of others, they’re not so big as to be overwhelming to a beginner. It is fair to say that some prior sewing ability would be helpful.

The best part of this book is its combination of photos, patterns, clear instructions and detailed information about standard matte sizes and the tools you’ll need when you want to begin framing.

There are 67 titles for do-it-yourself projects at Allentown Public Library. What’s your next project?

Got Your Shot?

If you are home bound for medical or mobility reasons that make it difficult for you to get a COVID-19 shot and you live in Allentown, help is on the way!

City of Allentown Paramedics will be making house calls to those residents who need the service. Stocked with the Moderna COVID-19 shots, they’ll provide your first shot and follow up to bring a second shot. They’ll keep working to provide shots for people who need this help until this service is no longer needed in our city.

You just need to take the first step. Make the call to the hotline at 610-260-0360 to schedule an appointment.

YNGR: Shiatsu

Shiatsu: Japanese Finger Pressure Therapy, Do-it-Yourself Acupressure by William Schultz

Sometimes older books like this one, published in 1976, are as relevant today as they were when they were brand new.

Illustration from Shiatsu: Japanese Finger Pressure Therapy

In 1954 while living in Tokyo, Japan, author William Schultz enrolled in the Shiatsu Institute. While he continued his education, he moved to California where he was also able to continue his exporting business and his practice. He achieved a Master of Shiatsu, and by the time the book was published ten years later, Schultz was one of only two shiatsu practitioners in the United States.

Shiatsu, the author tells us, is “the oldest written form of physical therapy.”

Compelling are the many ways in which shiatsu, once learned, can benefit one’s health. Nearly anyone can learn the basic techniques covered here to alleviate headaches, relieve neck and shoulder pain, address tendonitis, muscle fatigue and more.

A short read unencumbered by heavy medical jargon and accompanied by photos and drawings that best illustrate the details, this book proves its worth.

We like the do-it-yourself aspect of this particular book, but there are several other books in our collection about Shiatsu which are located in the non-fiction section at 615.822. Would you like to learn more? Click below to link to our catalog.

YNGR: 500 Handmade Dolls

­­500 Handmade Dolls: Modern Explorations of the Human Form by Valerie Van Arsdale Schrader

These are not your sister’s baby dolls!

For adults and children, this coffee-table book allows its viewers to appreciate artful interpretations that indulge both reality and fantasy.

The artists have sculpted, whittled, sewn, beaded and burnished using disparate mediums that include: clay, wood, metal, fabric and other materials that inspire imagination.

Containing real conversation starters, there’s bound to be a doll that suits your personal taste in art, makes you giggle or impresses in its intricacies.

If you enjoy the cute and whimsical, prefer the macabre or the confusion and chaos of modern artists’ mythical creatures, then this book is worth checking out.

Looking for artistic inspiration?

Whether you want to take a break from your computer screen or ponder age old questions like that of the funky chicken pictured here in Who Came First?, you’re likely to find ideas for your next art project in this photo book. 

Some of the dolls, like those in the traditional section, show a slice of life while others exaggerate features and form with available materials.

Check it out! Literally!

YNGR: Music Section of the World’s Great Madonnas

Music Section of the World’s Great Madonnas by Cynthia Pearl Maus and Evelyn Lysle Fielding

Published in 1947, you could easily overlook this little treasure of a book. Think of it! When this book made its way to the Allentown Public Library, Harry S. Truman was President of the United States. Its cover price (at the time $1.50) would be about $16.95 today, but you can still check it out for free here.

It doesn’t have a flashy, high-definition cover or a national ad campaign beckoning booksellers to order new copies from the publisher. What it lacks there, it makes up for in both nostalgia and variety.

While you might be the type of person who looks forward to hearing your favorite holiday tunes play on the radio from Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas, others might prefer finding music and lyrics to old hymns or lesser known folk songs.

In addition to Christmas songs and carols, the book contains special occasion folk songs and lullabies from around the world. Divided into six sections, you’ll find music and lyrics from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and both North and South America. Come check out this non-fiction selection. Who knows what other treasures you might find?

YNGR: The Home Diffusing & Distilling Handbook

The home distilling & infusing handbook : make your own whiskey & bourbon blends, infused spirits, cordials & liqueurs by Matt Teacher

With the nationwide explosion in popularity of home-brewed and craft brewery made beers, the proliferation of local wineries and sangria fests, a person might presume there’s no room left for infused spirits or whiskey and bourbon blends. For those of you in the latter category—think again.

This little book from the non-fiction shelves of the Allentown Public Library covers a host of possibilities from gin to vodka, and cordials to rum.

Pages resemble your family’s favorite old recipe book complete with Instagram-worthy photos. Amusing quips like these from comedians, politicians and celebrities and keep it simple but interesting.

“There can’t be good living where there is not good drinking.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

After a brief intro and a few comments about the law and safety for DIYers, readers can get the real lowdown on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to adding various fruits, vegetables or herbs to alcohol. Uncomplicated directions with no more than five steps in most cases provide easy to follow ways to create new choices for digest-ifs, or compliments to your dinner.  Reserve your copy

Café Wrap: Disabilities and Phobias

Question: When supporting someone who has a difficulty (such as a disability or a phobia), at what point should one help this person get used to the trigger versus make accommodations?

At the outset of our meetup, we determined that this question is not on its surface philosophical. It does suggest a moral dilemma. The deeper question it reveals is whether it is immoral for us to expect a person to change to adhere to our expectations.

A distinction exists between a disability and a phobia. Whereas a disability may include phobias, one who has a phobia or even several phobias may not necessarily be disabled though they may be debilitated by them. Disabilities too, we recognized can encompass mental, physical or both aspects of a person’s being. They may be obvious or invisible.

One person suggested, “Someone once said that a person will only change when the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of changing.” This principle can be applied to all sorts of change.

Can we even compare phobias like the fear of flying in an airplane, arachnophobia (fear of spiders), or fear of heights with varying challenges presented by learning disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, PTSD, loss of a limb, or traumatic brain injury? In short, these are not comparable. Answers to how to properly address each condition can vary by the individual. Approaches to treatment are often best begun by professional experts in their field of medical, occupational or physical therapy or psychology.

There are other questions here too. Is it better for us to set a higher achievement goal for the individual in hopes it will inspire him or her to grow, to heal or to be “more than” they were before? By contrast, is it best to make an accommodation that allows the person to participate as fully as possible in the human experience given the set of skills they bring to the table without expecting more?

And, by “more” do we mean “more like us”?

Maybe, Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life by Jim Kwik offers some answers.

One participant used the example of her work at a summer camp for special needs adults. There, she noticed at meal times some who she believed could have been capable to pour a drink for themselves from a pitcher on the table but that they didn’t simply because they had not been given the opportunity to try, thus they did not strive for more.

To that end, another participant suggested a Richard Lavoie workshop entitled Understanding learning disabilities: [frustration, anxiety, tension, the F.A.T. city workshop] How difficult can this be? would offer some insight. (*Available on DVD by requesting an Interlibrary Loan at our Reference Desk.)

By listening to one another at the Socrates Café, we gain valuable insight into our beliefs and how our answer to this question influence our decisions. The Socratic method allows us to see possibilities beyond our usual scope because we meet people who we might otherwise not have.

At each meetup, participants have an opportunity to hear other points of view, and to offer their ideas about the group’s chosen question of the day. We hope you’ll JOIN US!