Posts Tagged ‘ Temple Grandin ’

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.

Temple Grandin – Vision

She sees the world in ways others can’t. Simple, succinct and seminal. Well, the first two for sure; only time will tell how seminal her story will be for me.

Another thing I got out of the movie was that of “connection”.

Already, I have too much for one posting; and what I learned about my daughter who just graduated from high school is yet another story. So this might be a multi-part posting; I’m sure my loyal readers will humor me?

We all see the world in a unique way – our own way; unfortunately, for the most part, we want others to see it the way we do. This is self-defeating for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it shows that we persist in living in our own illusions, for the simple fact that we want everyone to see what we see – this, all-by-itself is an illusion. We give ourselves the mantle of being “special” and “unique” but expect others to give up their own and worship ours.

According to the movie, Temple had difficulty with roommates in college. I can imagine myself in a close, daily relationship with someone who had pretty much no social skills at all. Maybe that would work because I don’t have much use for people, either (and I know I’m not autistic, for I am brilliant at absolutely nothing at all: “hopelessly average” as my sister has put it). But, she finally got a roommate who was blind. Two things there: One, the blind roommate spent her whole life being different and living in a world that was not the least bit accommodating to her “other than ‘normal’ needs”. And two, the roommate “saw” the world in voices and sounds – not really so much different from how Temple said she saw the world, tho for her, in pictures.

So, first “a-ha moment”: How do I see the world, and how can I appreciate how others see it? I’ll go way out on a limb here and propose that we, each and every one of us, want to make the world fit our perception, our mold, our “reality”. But, if we stand back a minute, be the director and not one of the actors on the stage, we will quickly come to the realization that the world is bigger than us, and has been and will be, around longer than each of us, and that we need to fit the world. In my previous life of being a military aviator, we used to say “strap on the airplane”; and I had some brilliant colleagues (I hope they don’t mind me calling them colleagues) who seemed to become another entity entirely – a good thing when coming aboard a pitching deck at night (NORDO, too). Yes, I am a tailhooker (and proud of it). The actor lives on the stage, the aviator lives in the sky, but with its own – inviolate – rules (actors can “break a leg” and return; military aviation is less forgiving).

While Temple (and “all” austistics?) can’t understand why we “normal” folk can’t see the world as they do, can we, at the very least, give up our illusions? Maybe Temple could never learn how to hug; can I? She certainly understood how necessary some sort of hug was; just not from people, thank-you-very-much. Give up that First Illusion; that the world is as we see it. As we see it, not as how others see it; and finally, not how it really is.

Second, try to see the world as others see it. Well, maybe appreciate that they do see it differently; then move on to “walking a mile in their shoes”. Crawl, then walk, then run. First, aim, then shoot. Engage my brain before I open my mouth (conveniently ignoring that, often, there aren’t any brain cells to engage).

I earn a paycheck from a company that espouses “diversity”. Recently, it hijacked that term – formerly used for ethnic diversity – and has promulgated “geographical diversity” (what do you expect from a huge engineering company?). During a recent “webcast” (I suppose that term makes as much sense as “broadcast”?) five executives explained their new corporate strategy. All five were: white, male and middle-aged. Three of the five were grossly obese. I am white and male, which I can’t change, and wouldn’t change, even if I could. And, I am past middle-age; not much I can do about that, either. The obese is entirely w/n my control. That said, I am reminded of Groucho Marx’s famous: “I would never join a club that would have me as a member.” Temple Grandin is probably as brilliant as all five of those stuffed-shirts put together; but she would never be allowed into that club; and thankfully, most likely couldn’t care less. And the company I work for is less for the incest.

Food for thought, Temple: how do I see the world, and how do others see it?

Thanks to Claire Danes for her portrayal in the HBO movie. Dr Temple Grandin is on the web; well worth your time to look her up (I guess I should say “Google her”, shouldn’t I?).