Temple and Me

I read Temple Grandin’s Animals in Translation this past summer and was extremely moved by it. I just now finished watching HBO’s movie about her. She is an autistic woman who had the right kind of support and encouragement in her life, as well as spirit and intelligence, to become a voice so that the rest of us can learn the inner life of an autistic person. She achieved a Ph.D. and has become an authority in her field of translating the needs of animals, particularly cattle, for humans to comprehend. When I read her book, and then watched the movie, I felt so much resonance with the importance of what she has to say to us collectively, and to me personally. I’m going to list personal reasons.

#1 Before I had ever heard of Temple Grandin a couple of years ago I caused some friends of mine to have a reaction of curiosity, maybe some concern, when I told them I wanted to invent a “hugging machine.” After living in a family of origin who were very free with tactile expression, then having been married with children in a tactile family-  living alone has been difficult. As humans I think we are meant to be touched and hugged regularly – and I am not talking about sex. The sex part mixes it up, turns it into something else, very unfortunately much of the time. I refer to the general expression of children, friends, families who touch each other regularly. I felt the absence of this presence in my life hugely after living alone, and told my friends I was thinking of how to develop some pillowy thing that actually closes in and hugs; it would be so helpful. Well, Temple Grandin developed a hugging machine after she saw how cows were calmed by a contraption that held them tightly. She came to need her hugging machine as much as oxygen. I felt amazed and validated when I saw this!

#2 Temple got respect enough from some men at a ranch who had refused her entrance, where she needed entrance in order to do her research to write her articles, when she told one of them she had eaten bull’s testicles. That was enough for them to respect her and let her become one of them. Well, I have eaten bull’s testicles here on the mountain. Respect, please!

#3 Temple thinks in pictures, not words or concepts. She is a visual thinker. I had a dream once that told me that “the heart thinks in images.” Much of my work in the last decades has been about recovering the indigenous mind. Indigenous people the world over will tell you that they think with the heart. The heart thinks in images. Temple is an indigenous thinker, and I want to learn from her.

#4 Much of the confusion Temple expressed in this movie was in regard to trying to answer the question, when she saw animals and humans die, of “Where do they go?” I’ve been on that same line of inquiry lately myself in a huge way.

#5 Temple’s motto, and that of her wonderful mother, seemed to be “different but not less.” Recent news reports, including tonight’s, has told stories of the torture and murder of young gay people by people who feel threatened, for some unfathomable reason, by them. Why does “different” mean automatically “less” or “bad” to some people? WHY are we instinctively afraid of it? WHY? This is an enormous question that needs very immediate and considered reflection.

I am so appreciative of what I am learning from Temple Grandin right now. God bless her work.

One Response to “Temple and Me”

  1. Joy Parker Says:

    I’m also a big fan of Temple Grandin and have written about her in a manuscript I’m working on about indigenous practices. You’ve done a wonderful job here of sharing the value and innovations of her thoughts. It’s so true that she has much to teach all of us because she is not bound by the parameters of thought and limitations that the rest of us are because of the culture in which we live. That makes her free to think outside the box in a powerful way.

    I’m going to put this book on my reading list.

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