Left and Right Brained World: The Post-modern Turn


I've recently discovered Ihab Hassan who has written a slew of books and articles on the transition from modernity to postmodernity. One well known title is 'The Post-modern Turn', that I located much cheaper as an e-book.

There are many comparison charts summarising the contrasting features of modernity with postmodernity. Ihab provides a detailed and much referenced one in his work The Dismemberment of Orpheus in 1988, that you can see here.

As a shorter summary, he suggests:

Modernity - postmodernity Purpose - Play Design - Chance Hierachy - Anarchy Centering - Dispersal Selection - Combination

The terms of modernism are clustered around the ability to analyse, order, control etc. The terms on the posmodern side are clustered around the inability to control, of the organic and emerging.

I have seen these kinds of lists often used perjoratively, as if the modern are all bad, and postmodern are good. I'm more convinced that if we dwell on the modern side we become stifling and joyless whilst dwelling on the postmodern side we become narcisstic and superficial.

Maybe one way to reagrd these categorisations is in terms of left and right brained. The modern world has been very left brained, whilst the post-modern turn has been recovering the right brain. Wired magazine carried an article last year titled revenge of the right brain that outlines the move of the left brained world of modernity and the transition back to the right brained.

Our churches need to recover, and explore the right brained aspects of post-modernity, but must not make the same mistakes of modernity by abandoning the left brained. I keep talking about the need for a 'deep church', instead of a patholigcal reactionary post-church, and I supect a 'deep church' will recover, revive and nurture the right brained, whilst holding on and using the left brained.

Our churches need to be structured, intentional communities of programmed mission, that are simultaneously places of play, surprise and exuberant creativity. In fact I think the postmodern turn is not about a false dichotomy between these categorisations, but the opportunity to see them as synthesised and synergistically working together.