Da Vinci, Biomimicry, and the Right-side of the Brain

Walking through the Da Vinci museum in Rome, I was filled with awe and admiration at the prolific inventions, designs, drawings, and totally different ways of thinking so characteristic to Da Vinci. He has been a mentor-beyond-the-grave for me throughout my life, starting from when I was very young and used to sketch anatomical drawings from a huge book filled with sketches from Da Vinci. I always loved how in the presence of his work, I felt comfortable about the lack of distinction between 'Art' or 'Science' - both fed each other for him, as they have for me. 

This time round studying his works, I was also struck by how strong the practise of Biomimicry was in his works and way of thinking. He, too, also looked to Nature and her mechanisms for inspiration in his inventions, and would obsessively study the human body and intricate workings in a hope to build better machines. 

It also reminded me of my decidedly left-handedness since a young age. I have been independently researching some of the studies of the 20th century that led us to understand the complex functions of the right-side of the brain. While the left-side of the brain which controls the right hand, and promotes rational, sequential, logical and 'time-based' thinking, the right is the majority contributor to our intuitive thinking, holistic thought and understanding, subjective and 'space-based' thinking. The left hemisphere (right side) is also the verbal processor - which often makes it difficult for the right side of the brain to translate its realisations and intuitions into words - and some say has even had consequences in the language we use to describe 'left' and 'right'.

'Left' in French is 'gauche', meaning 'awkward'; in Italian 'sinistre', meaning sinister, dark, or bad. It's quite a chicken-and-egg situation, but we now have evolved as a society into one that promotes left-brain thinking in the way we provide education, test our students, and expect people to behave in organisations, even making some of the left-brain characteristic synonymous with what it means to be 'professional'. 

I found it impossibly difficult to leave Art behind when having to choose between Art and Science at university - it felt like being severed in two. Luckily there was also a lot of space for creativity within the field of Molecular Biology and even learning about the neural underpinnings in Neuroscience, but still - it often felt like my right-brain self was not totally at home in our left-brain world. 

Hand preference is the most visible outward sign of how an individual's brain is organised. Swapping hands in writing and other tasks can also help stimulate and strengthen different sides of the brain. Even better is to engage in activities that different sides of the brain 'win' at, and doing exercises that tease out your less-dominant side. I'm currently developing some workshop exercises around this topic, and creativity - if this is something that interests you or you know about, please get in touch!

When I first started writing as a child, I wrote with my left hand, refusing to change to the right (although I had family members who tried to nudge me!) and alarming my parents by writing right-to-left, in mirror writing - they were worried about whether I'd ever learn! What made me grin was seeing Da Vinci's intricate notes alongside his drawings, in secret 'back-to-front' mirror writing code - to keep his genius ideas and plans private! It's got me thinking... Maybe it's time to revive the mirror cursive scrawl!