Friday, February 4, 2011

Modern "Saint"

magazine's annual naming of the 100 most influential people in the world, honored Dr. Temple Grandin as one of 25 "Heroes" of 2010.

I first met Temple in Vancouver, Canada in 1987 at the International Conference for People and Animals, where we were both presenters.  She was in my session, being obviously interested in children and their relationship to animals.  At the time I did not know her or her book Emergence, about her condition with autism.

The following year we were presenters at the  Delta Society conference in Orlando, and both being  bored with the keynote presenter's rant, decided to go outside and watch the space shuttle taking off.  It was the first shuttle after the tragic Challenger. The image of the two of us standing in that bright Florida sun is ingrained in my memory.  A few years later we both presented papers at the Amer. Psychiatric Assoc. in New Orleans and on occasion I would run into her at Colorado State University, where she is a professor of animal science. Since those days, 15 years ago, she has truly "emerged" as one renowned for her groundbreaking work in livestock handling and one of the world’s most influential autistics. Her seminal book Thinking in Pictures: And Other Reports from My Life with Autism  revolutionized understanding of the condition and she has also been called “The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow.”

Ever wonder why we suddenly see  reference to a person  everywhere we turn?  I was in our dentist's office last week and came across her name in the magazine Cowboys and Indians. Then Mother Prioress handed me  an article about her by Baxter Black (do not know the farm journal) entitled  "Saint Temple". "A familiar figure has risen from our own small world of animal husbandry...our own saint...autistic, curious, insightful and innocent of guile... her ability to overcome huge odds and turn her affliction into a discovery that us "neuro-normal" people overlook.  We need to pause, rethink our differences, and appreciate what we could become if we could look through her eyes".  Sounds like sanctity to me!!!  Living on the edge has allowed Temple to be an extraordinary source of inspiration for autistic children, their parents,  and hope for another mammal: the cow."

If you have not seen the wonderful movie about her life (HBO film Temple Grandin)  which  received most of the major awards in its category at the Emmys ( Best Made-for-Television Movie, Best Director, Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, etc.)  I strongly recommend it. Claire Danes, who plays Temple, also won a SAG award and a Golden Globe  (the Triple Crown of TV).

In an interview with Temple in Cowboys and Indians she was asked what her idea of happiness is:
" Well, my idea of happiness is I really like being good at what I do. People say to me that something I did with cattle handling worked for them or I gave them some advice about their [autistic] child and that worked — that makes me happy."  That we all could be good at what we do and happy about it!

1 comment:

  1. Long before I learned of Grandin's work, I met a young woman whose son was disabled by virtue of a cancer and chemo afflicting his body. His mother used horseback riding to cure him. Eventually he regained his ability to walk. She began a small enterprise to help others, illustrating once again the bond that can be formed between animals and humans, and the power of the animals.

    I think of the shamanic practice of recognizing one's power animal.