“If you’re right-brained, you’ll see a fish. If you’re left-brained, you’ll see a mermaid.”
Myrtle Adelweiss looked at the assemblage of gestural lines in the picture. In the image they formed, she saw no fish. Neither did she perceive a mermaid. What she saw was the head of kangaroo.
What did it mean? Was she right-brained or left-brained?
One day, Myrtle was at work, at Nordnik High School, coaching the varsity football team. While demonstrating to her beefy players the correct way for a linebacker to plunge ahead at the snap of the ball, she received a concussion from a slab of gristle named Artie Snigginbotham. Myrtle was rushed to the emergency room at Sleater-Sinai-Sloater-Kinnering, unable to recall her own name.
The attending physician, Dr. Elaine Bryant O’Brain, did an MRI of Myrtle’s skull. Then an ultrasound. Then a spectrograph. Then an encephalo-shmeffalograph. Then a spirograph. Then a titration test. Then a Ph test. Then an EEG. Then a BB King. Then an insufferabullitis portmantobleronagraph.
Every image, regardless of what test was done, showed one miraculous fact: between the two hemispheres of Myrtle’s brain lay a third lobe, nestled between them like a summer sausage between two napping, hairless, Sharpei-wrinkled guinea pigs. Dr. O’Brain called it “The Third Lobe.” It became known in neurological literature as The Adelweiss-O’Brain Lobe. “The Third Lobe” was cooler, though.
But what was the function of this extra loaf, or lobe, in the brain of Myrtle Adelweiss? How had this “third loaf” been acquired? How long had it been in amongst the payload of Myrtle Adelweiss’s cranium? Did it confer any other advantages to her besides the obvious one of allowing a third interpretation of an ambiguous figure meant to elicit one of two specific interpretations? What good was this third loaf, if any?
For the next three years, O’Brain conducted a wide-ranging study of people who saw a kangaroo head instead of either a mermaid or a fish in the picture that had given Myrtle Adelweiss a bit of agito. Various types of brain scans revealed that the majority of these specimens had the summer-sausage-shaped third loaf.
What else did they have in common? There was no single phenotype, genotype, ethnicity, religion, or economic class they shared, although the preponderance of specimens were of what was once known as “the white people” and belonged to an economic class of owners of modest homes and owner-operators of small businesses with three or fewer employees, most of them stakeholders in corporations consisting only of a single employee: themselves.
Most in the sample of some 50,000 individuals identified themselves as:
1. thinking for themselves
2. loving their country
3. being more compassionate than average
4. being more intelligent than average
5. being more health conscious than average
6. being of above average health
7. having a greater sense of fairness than average
Remarkably, a large percentage of the control group, those without loaves, answered the same way. It was the last two questions where the difference was starker.
8. considering themselves members of an oppressed group
The only members of the control group, those without a loaf, who answered this way were actual members of a group self-identifying as other than white, Christian, able-bodied, heterosexual, or men (born men, more specifically).
The last question, question 9, was the key marker for difference:
9. believing the nation needs the guidance and discipline of a strong, stern, authoritarian leader
No member of the control group answered that they believed the statement. Every member of the loaf-bearers, or “loafers,” did.
That was the difference. Focusing closer on this particular question revealed another difference: When asked if they considered compassion a quality of strength in a leader, all the non-loafers answered affirmatively. All the loafers answered that compassion was a weakness, not just in a leader, but in a citizen.
One loafer summarized it this way: “At least Hitler had some backbone. Gandhi was a pussy.”
This might lead one to believe a cognitive dissonance might have been pointed out in their answer to question 3: that they considered themselves more compassionate than average. On closer questioning, however, the loafers’ definition of compassion applied only to such feelings extended to those within their own group, however they might define those limits. Not so with the non-loafers.
In her conclusion to her abstract on the paper she published in The Journal of Psychiatric Conclusions, O’Brain summarized the loafers’ philosophy thus:
Laws and authorities should protect those belonging to our group and control those outside our group.
What exactly was it about this loaf of interposed brain matter that either exploited or caused these beliefs? The hypothesis was that the loaf acted as a kind of selective prism for signals between the hemispheres of the brain. In a normal brain, such signals were transported from hemisphere to hemisphere through a clump of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. At one time, severing the corpus callosum was tried as a treatment for epilepsy. It was abandoned when experimentation revealed side effects, such as the inability of the subject to write and speak the same word when shown a different word to each eye. The communication between brain hemispheres turned out to have many subtle necessities in everyday understandings of perception.
In the loafers, the corpus callosum was wrapped in the flesh of the intervening loaf. The loaf edited the signals between the hemispheres, censoring all but the perceptions that might lead a person to conclude otherwise than that an out-group was a threat to one’s in-group, and that an authoritarian leader was required to restrict the activities of the out-group. Further, danger to the in-group was magnified or amplified, or exaggerated, at the expense of other mitigating information.
The most mysterious part of the mystery came eighteen months after the study, when subsequent examination demonstrated that the loaves had disappeared. None of the loafers showed the presence or even a physical trace of the loaves. Unfortunately, the kind of thinking the loaves had vitalized did not likewise disappear.
Elaine O’Brain now theorized that what remained was a phantom loaf. Like the illusion of a limb that amputees may experience, the loafers retained the heavy-handed editor of perception in the form of an invisible prism. A prism of the mind, as it were.
She therefore suggested changing the nomenclature from “loafers” to “mental prismers.”
Although all of O’Brain’s records of the material existence of the third loaf were destroyed in a group of suspicious thefts and vandalisms everywhere those records were kept, the phenomenon of the mental prism is SuperTrue®, and remains a threat to civil society to this day.
And this has been another Moment of Truth. Good day!