Temple Grandin – Connection

She seemed to relate to – understand, feel comfortable with – cows better than people; and I am sure that seems strange to most “normal folk”. She didn’t seem to have a close, personal relationship with anyone; and this seems to be a characteristic of autistics. But, I’m not so sure it isn’t also a characteristic of this modern technological age.

This technology that is said to bring people closer together. Really? Walk into a restaurant and observe how many people are on their “device” (I guess “cell phone” is already passé?). Maybe it’s the ability to be physically close to someone at the table, and “electronically close” to someone who isn’t? Is this the much touted closeness? Close to everybody, so close to nobody. What kind of connection is that? A distant one, at best.

Some people I know seem to be happiest when they are merely around other people, like at a shopping mall, a bar, even at a church service (see my posting, “The Edmonds Group”). And the corollary is also true: these same people can’t stand to be by themselves. So, they absolutely love the toys that keep them “front and center” (now, that term is passé), or “in the face” (a little more current, eh?) of others. It is no longer a matter of having only six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon (“Taking Chance” is one of my most favorite movies); it is, rather, a matter of how many “Facebook Friends” you have, or how people you follow on Twitter.

Do I need to say that I wish my cell phone did only three things? One, make and receive phone calls (the call screening ability I absolutely love). Two, send and receive text messages. Three, serve as my alarm clock (I wish I could program more than six alarms). No graphics, no internet, no photos, no games. And, I probably use the “silence” switch more than anything else.

My wife no longer asks how a certain feature works on her iPhone because she is tired of hearing me say, “I don’t know and I don’t care. It’s your phone, you figure it out.” I think she has the local Apple Store on speed dial.

In other words, what does “connect” or “connection” mean, in this modern social context? What value are hundreds, if not thousands of names stored in some computer? Will any of them care when you no longer answer your phone? Will any of them even notice?

In “It’s a Wonderful Life” (those of you who know me, knew this was coming), James Stewart discovers at the very end of the movie that, for the most part, everyone in the town of Bedford Falls was willing to dig into their pockets for whatever they could give him. Now, THOSE are connections worth having (and in the days of wall-mounted, hand-crank telephones, too).

I am halfway through the Patrick O’Brian series on Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin – the second time. The first time I read the 21 volumes, I just enjoyed the story. This time, I am trying to understand what it is about Jack and Stephen that I find so attractive. Since I have served on slightly more modern naval vessels (and the USS Nimitz is slightly bigger than anything Jack was in), I know in my soul-of-souls that I am most grateful for the, shall we say, “amenities” of ships today. So, it’s not that I wish I had been born in 18th century England (or, the US). Socially, I would have been one of those we now call “cannon fodder”; which is not very attractive, either.

What I believe makes me want to read the roughly 6,000 pages (twice) is the friendship that they enjoyed. I cannot think of any other characters, anywhere in literature, who connected so well. I know I have certainly not connected with anyone so well. While the story is a historical novel, perhaps the friendship is also fiction? Of course. But, is it also possible?

Temple Grandin didn’t seem to care whether she connected with people or not (please note that everything I know about Dr Grandin I know from the HBO movie, and her website). Do others more in the “mainstream” of society actually connect any better, or are they merely fooling themselves by accumulating connections (oops, contacts).

Yep, human beings are social animals, but then, so are cows. Do we, as a species, actually form bonds any more significant than other mammals? (Ask your cat – not your dog. You know the joke about shutting your dog in a closet for three days, or shutting your wife in a closet for three days? Which one will be happy to see you?) The need for social interaction is in our DNA, but I don’t think we’re very good at it. More toys don’t seem to be helping us connect.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: