Two Ways to Approach the Unknown


I have always been curious about words, especially those with interesting histories. Take the word “listlessness”, for example. The dictionary defines it as a state in which one lacks energy, enthusiasm or liveliness; a state of indifference. These days, this frame of mind is often expressed by a “Whatever!” spoken with the person’s best imitation of a Valley Girl accent. Listlessness can be a deterrent to feeling joy in the present moment. It has a person asking of life, “Is that all there is?”

Ah, but in my poking around the history of that word “listless”, I discovered that it comes from the Middle English word “lystles”, whose root word, “lyst”, is associated with desire. Someone who is “listless”, then, is someone who lacks a list, is devoid of desire – for anything. And, we can think of being “list – less” as being minus the order of priority that gives life meaning.

Think about it: When you make a list, you usually order it by what is most important to least important. But, what if you don’t know what’s most important to you? Or maybe you’re confused about what your priorities should be. You find yourself unable to take action because you’re unclear about your real desires, the ones at the core of your being that will propel you out of your state of listlessness and give you the courage to create the life you want – now in this present moment.

So, let’s make a list

Here, let me help you. Take a piece of paper and pen or pencil. Sit somewhere with no distractions and let your hand write down the things you believe are most important for you to do. Now, let’s suppose the first item on your personal “Honey, do list” says “I want to finish writing my book.” Your next step would be to take that top priority of yours and list the “how’s” that will help you achieve that goal. “How” is a take-action word that works well as a motivator, pushing you out of that state of listlessness you may be in.

Two ways to handle the unknown – method / technical, left / right brain

Challenged by a life of unknowns? Who isn’t? Do you find yourself saying “I don’t know!” a lot? How do you climb out of the abyss of the unknown? Well, first you have to own your “not-knowing-ness”. Then ask yourself, “What’s important to me – right now?”

Phil Canville, the discoverer of Geomic Code, used to talk about how actors approach a new role using either of two ways – “technical” or “method”. A technical actor looks at her or his role from a classical (Shakespearean) perspective, often memorizing the entire script and relying on an exact, strict interpretation of the script as written. The technical actor seldom improvises or veers from the script. A method actor, on the other hand, uses a style of improvisational acting developed by Lee Strasberg. Method acting draws on the actor’s experiences to help the actor live inside her or his character and find points of interconnection between the actor’s life and that of the character.

Here is how Phil put it in his book, The Geomic Code: Unlocking the Mystery of Unconscious Choice:

Science has attempted to help us understand the world around us. We have scientific answers for many things that in generations past would have been left to urban myths, legends, or religious teachings.

I look at life from two perspectives: a “technical” or pragmatic side and a spiritual side I like to call “method.” “Technical” and “Method” are holdovers from my decades working in theater. Technical actors, typically British, were master technicians, hitting all their marks, gesturing with laser precision. It always looked like Shakespearian perfection.

For my money, if the actor could not tap into a deeper reality, an emotional truth, he may as well have been a robot reciting “to be or not to be.” I believe this ability of mine to see a failure to get at the heart of something is what drew me to the DNA mapping project. It seems to me that, for every question the mapping project answered, two questions sprang up to take its place. In short, those running the DNA mapping project were missing the point. Despite all that “assistance,” we have been unable to scratch the surface of precisely how, and maybe more importantly, why we are put together in the way we are.

What is between the lines of Phil’s words in that quote is an understanding of the two ways of learning about our world – science and art. You have probably heard the terminology “left brain / right brain”. The truth is that all of us use both sides of our brains even as we understand that we also “favor” one side over the other.

Left brainers are the scientifically oriented among us, the data-driven, analytical sorts who want to see the facts that prove the point. In terms of the two types of acting I previously described, these folks would be technical actors.

Now we let’s look at right brain people (like me, for instance). We are intuitive, imaginative, flexible, non-linear, playful. The thespians among us are (you guessed it, I bet) method actors.

The Russian scientist, Leonid Ponomarev, in his book, In Quest of the Quantum, describes these two ways of learning about our world:

It has been long known that science is only one of the methods of studying the world around us. Another—more complementary—method is realized in art. The joint existence of art and science is in itself a good illustration of the complementary principal. You can devote yourself completely to science or live exclusively in your art. Both points of view are equally valid, but, taken separately, are incomplete.

The backbone of science is logic and experiment. The basis of art is intuition and insight. But the art of ballet requires mathematical accuracy and, as Pushkin wrote, “Inspiration in geometry is just as necessary as in poetry.” They complement rather than contradict each other. True science is akin to art, in the same way as real art always includes elements of science. They reflect different, complementary aspects of human experience and give us a complete idea of the world only when taken together.

So, we are back to the beginning – how to address the lack of lists (desire) we all experience from time to time in our lives. I believe one way to do it is to work together – the right brainers and left brainers, the data-driven and the creative – to see what we can learn from each other.

To put it in improvisational terms – let’s think “yes, and” rather than “either, or”. Left brainers can teach me much about how to uncover a new way of interacting with my world that I have not even thought about yet. And, left brainers, in turn, can benefit from seeing their lives from a right brain point of view. We can all draw inspiration for finding new life directions by peeking into the unknown with the eyes of the other.

The Geomic Code Research Institute carries on the work of Phil Canville by studying, among other things, how different people interact with the world around them. We invite you to take the Geomic Code Assessment and join us in this fascinating study.