Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Different, But Not Less: Temple Grandin

“I do not cry easily at the movies; years can go past without tears. I have noticed that when I am deeply affected emotionally, it is not by sadness so much as by goodness.”—Roger Ebert

Although I cannot say “years go past,” without me crying at the movies, I can say, in all sincerity, that I agree with Roger: “When I am deeply affected emotionally [by a film], it is not by sadness so much as by goodness.”

This past weekend, I watched a film about a remarkable woman named Temple Grandin. Grandin was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1947. She hadn’t learned to speak by age four, and subsequently, Temple was diagnosed with autism. Awareness and studies on autism at the time were nonexistent, and Temple’s parents were told by psychologists that she was a “childhood schizophrenic.” Consequently, they were encouraged to institutionalize her.

Temple’s mother, Eustacia, a Harvard-educated woman, would not accept this advice. Instead she hired tutors to work with Temple on a daily bases. After learning to speak, as well as acquiring a variety of necessary life skills and coping mechanisms, Temple headed to high school. During this time, Temple began the several decade-long process of unlocking her neurological abilities: She came to understand that she processed the entire world through an incredible catalogue of pictures.

A few years later, encouraged by positive experiences on her aunt’s ranch as a teenager, and after graduating with a degree in Psychology from Franklin Pierce College, Temple decided to pursue graduate work in Animal Science at Arizona State University. This is where she began some of her most important work to date. Out of earnest desire to change inhumane slaughter practices in the cattle industry (She literally could perceive what a cow felt when held in a slaughter yard, due to her unique visual and emotional understandings), she designed revolutionary stockyards. Half of the entire country’s slaughter stockyards are now equipped with Grandin’s more humane designs.

She once said concerning this subject:
“I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we’ve got to do it right. We’ve got to give those animals a decent life and we’ve got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect. Nature is cruel. But we don’t have to be.”

Aside from her enormous contribution to the cattle industry, Grandin is also one of the rare cases of autistic individuals who are cognizant and aware of how differently they perceive the world. Consequently, she has played a huge role in autism education and activism in the past two decades.

Perhaps what touches me the most about Temple’s story is her genuine goodness. After surviving a most likely torturous childhood and adolescence, and after overcoming incredibly difficult challenges, she went on to exemplify her mother's philosophy: Temple was different, but never less.

I am moved beyond words by this woman and this film.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Questions, Comments, Concerns." Wait. I Have All of Those.

It’s been awhile.

Forgive me.

There are various items I wish to discuss today. Mostly, they’re unrelated; but I feel compelled to address them, because they are presently significant topics of personal interest and preoccupation. Besides, I rarely see or speak to any of you as often as I should, so I think it’s about time I play catch up.

First, I have returned from my third consecutive annual Canadian Wilderness trip. I think my older sister may be right when she suggested I stop going up there: It only depresses me.

I should explicate.

Currently, my life is focused on a plethora of worrisome pursuits:
1. Preparations for post grad programs (i.e. studying for the GRE, taking Spanish, weighing my options on where to apply)
2. A job that is wildly underwhelming
3. My solitary life (I live for no one but me and that is utterly depressing some days.)
4. Anxiety and insecurities based on performance in these areas and concern over what that implies about my future

Ultimately, when I’m in Canada, none of these variables exist.

A Typical Day in the Canadian Wilderness:
1. Get up next to a platonic, though well-loved, bedfellow
2. Go to the kitchen, get a glass of mint tea, and receive a hug and a kiss from a grandfather figure
3. Head out to the day’s tasks with a team that is well-organized, efficient, and sincerely aware, encouraging, and appreciative of all members’ contributions to the day’s workload
4. Return at the conclusion of a long, though satisfying, day of work to a stack of tangible results
5. Spend the evening conversing with interesting and enjoyable friends
6. At night, look up at the stars that are a clear as city lights, and discuss the mysteries of the universe with a best friend
7. Go to bed feeling completely satisfied

Real life rarely works this way.

I guess I'd have to admit if I lived in Canada permanently, it wouldn’t take me long to get bored, miss my books and my family, and ultimately, I’d want to come home. But I think you understand why it sucks so bad to have to come back.

The second subject I need to discuss is sad but brief. Monday night, my cute, but ailing hairless rat, Charlie, had to be put down, due to an eye infection that had gotten out of control. His eye was bulging, and he looked like he was in a lot of pain. So I decided that it was cruel to keep him alive. After I “did the deed,” I felt tremendously sorry for Charlie and myself. RIP Charlie.

Next, I wish to officially announce my retirement from club Frisbee. I’m sorry that it’s come to this, but I think my last post really nailed one of my biggest weaknesses: I tend to think I can do everything. This is a marvelous fallacy, and I can no longer afford to indulge it. Besides, as per usual, I’m B-R-O-K-E.

Lastly, and on a less dour note, is anyone else excited about Halloween? I have one title for you: Addams Family Values. Check it out. You will pee your pants.