Category Archives: Culture

Thinking differently about your brain

     Monday, I got a few small lessons in neuroscience. An article was forwarded to me in the morning entitled, “Your Brain is a Rainforest.” The article, by Thomas Armstrong, examined the nature of the brain and society’s tendency to diagnose the differences that exist among all the brains out there. Armstrong calls for a focus on the strengths that the differences between brains provide to individuals, instead of the negatives that are associated with mental disorders, which only serve to fracture society and stigmatize individuals with disorders or disabilities. “The concept of neurodiversity provides a more balanced perspective. Instead of regarding traditionally pathologized populations as disabled or disordered, the emphasis in neurodiversity is placed on differences,” Armstrong writes.   

     After reading the article (which I strongly recommend), I thought to myself, “That makes sense. No two people are exactly alike, so why should two brains be exactly alike?” What would the world look like if we celebrated the differences between us, instead of trying to diagnose those who don’t fit our ever-evolving and very narrow mold of “normal?” What if we played to the strengths of each individual instead of forcing individuals to perform tasks for which they aren’t suited?

     In order to answer these questions, you may have to step into a different hemisphere of your brain. This is where my second lesson in neuroscience comes in. Monday afternoon, I was forwarded a video of Jill Bolte Taylor speaking to a group of people about how the brain works and the unique opportunity she had to study the hemispheres of the brain. I won’t spoil it by going into detail about her speech, but I recommend that you take 20 minutes and listen to what she has to say. Then see if it helps you answer the questions I posed. I have a strong suspicion that these two concepts connect somehow, and that we could make the world an altogether better place if we took these two small lessons in neuroscience and turned them into actions instead of words.

 Learn more about Tangram




Comments Off on Thinking differently about your brain

Filed under Culture, Disability, Perspective

Bears and apples create lessons that stick

Everyone makes beautiful music…

I judge books by their covers. Literally. I can’t help myself. I fall victim to marketing ploys and eye-catching, creative artwork all the time. I buy Cottonelle because of the puppy.

I try my best not to judge people by their “covers.” Let’s face it—nobody is perfect and I am no exception. Whenever I find myself succumbing to judgmental tendencies, I find it helpful to recall a particularly effective Berenstain Bears lesson wherein Mama Bear demonstrates the importance of not judging people by their outward appearance. She shows Sister Bear two apples: one, which is shiny and perfectly red, and the other, which is misshapen and dull. Then, Mama Bear cuts the apples open and shows them to Sister Bear. The seemingly perfect apple is rotten and riddled with worms on the inside. The lumpy and dull apple is a lovely white color inside without any worms, bad spots, or blemishes. The lesson is obvious: outward physical appearance does not automatically indicate what a person is like on the inside.

There are three videos I would like to include in today’s blog, two borrowed from popular culture (how else will I get you to watch them?), and the third borrowed from the Tanrgam website. The first is Susan Boyles audition on Britain’s Got Talent. Pay particular attention to Simon Cowell’s face as he realizes that his original assessment of Susan Boyle (based on her appearance) is incorrect. It is the best part of the video, in my opinion.

The second video is of 23 year-old Liu Wei, winner of China’s Got Talent. Liu Wei plays the piano beautifully—with his feet. After losing his arms at the age of 10, he learned to play the piano with his feet. He then won a popular television talent competition and inspired viewers all around the world.

The third will give you food for thought (and some very poignant music to listen to).

I hope you enjoy the videos. They are a reminder that everyone makes beautiful music…



Learn more about Tangram

Comments Off on Bears and apples create lessons that stick

Filed under Community, Culture, Disability, Inspirational

Dreamers of the World: Starring John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr., and Don Quixote

Dreamers are the leaders…

When I think of dreamers, a host of historic figures and cultural references comes to mind, but the first 3 to arrive in my mind are, invariably, John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr., and the song from The Man of La Mancha, “The Impossible Dream.”

John Lennon asked us to “Imagine all the people/Living life in peace/…/A brotherhood of man.” Martin Luther King Jr. told us that he had a dream. His dream fueled an entire civil rights movement and paved the way to a more inclusive future. And “The Impossible Dream” is the anthem for valorous visionaries, with lines like, “And the world will be better for this:/ That one man, scorned and covered with scars,/ Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,/ To reach … the unreachable star …” He’s right, the world is better because of dreamers—those who have the audacity to imagine a better world have the power to create a better world.

If there is one thing we can take away from these famous dreamers, it is that dreaming is essential. Without dreamers, progress is impossible. Someone, somewhere, imagined a world without institutions, a world where everyone could determine the shape of their own life and pursue happiness in whichever way they wanted.

We have made great progress since the days of institutions, but there is always room to grow. If you can dream it, you can do it. Today, I am dreaming about a diverse and inclusive community, where everyone makes their own choices and lives the way they want to live. Dream with me, and maybe one day, someone will blog about you. 



Comments Off on Dreamers of the World: Starring John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr., and Don Quixote

Filed under Culture, Disability, Inspirational