Merry only has half a brain

A man with no left brain and why it was nearly good for him.

Taylor Foreman


If Merry’s head was an ice cream cone, he only had half a scoop.

In my college town, there was your usual hipster coffee shop so you could go study while eating a muffin. Highland Coffee, I believe it was called.

Merry hung around near the front door, waiting to say hello to anyone. Once you got over the shocking sight of his half-imploded skull, Merry was lovely. Everyone adored him.

He gazed at me with just one eye, cloudy and unfocused. The other eye was blindly peering into the void. And yet, Merry truly “saw” me in a way that was unlike the way anyone else I knew.

Merry was missing the left hemisphere of his brain. Meaning, he had no ability, for example, to judge your attractiveness by the size of your chin or your socioeconomic position by your choice of hoodie. He could not examine the composition of your parts and then use those to put you into a category. Only the left hemisphere can do that.

Merry could only take you in all at once, as if you were rapture.

For those of us with both hemispheres, it’s hard to resist the gravity of the left brain — we live in a world designed by it. Categories and quantification. We, for example, calculate the value of human life to be between $1–$10 million.

The right brain (Merry) would never stand for that.

Until you’ve had the left half of your skull destroyed in a mysterious accident that neither you nor the people around you can recollect, it’s easy to believe that left-brain thinking is “logical” and right-brain thinking is “illogical.”

The truth of the matter is much stranger.

The differences are far more subtle and complex than the pop sci “left brain = logic, right brain = creativity.” Our right brains help invisibly weave together our waking world. So much so that a man with brain damage to his right hemisphere will confidently mistake his wife for a hat and be unfazed by his error.

For the most part, the “person” you feel to be reading these words is your left brain (oversimplifying — will unpack later in the essay).



Taylor Foreman

Essays bridging mythic meaning and the modern world. Click here to have them appear in your inbox some Saturday mornings -->