Temple Grandin and our different brains
A lot of my life I have been trying to fit into the world as defined by everyone else. To counter this struggle I spend hours and hours making art in my own world where creative energy reigns. This is a beautiful thing and for the most part, I am a happy person. Still, the world works as it wants and my life is experienced as trying to fit into invisible systems. These systems seem to be set up and defined by brains that see the world nothing like mine does.
In the framework of trying to be my authentic self, there has always been this subtle sense that I exist on the fringes of what is really happening out there. As far as creativity goes, I have contributed to the world through my work as an artist, designer and teaching artist, but I continually seek another way to be in the world and fully embodying my truest expression.
At some point, I unconsciously resigned myself to the fact that my own world would never fit into the bigger world. That was, until I discovered, empathized with, was amazed by, and became completely inspired by Temple Grandin.
Temple Grandin is autistic and truly herself in every moment. As a child she was diagnosed with autism and labeled brain damaged. She struggled with tremendous anxiety, panic and fear growing up…and as an adult has done amazing things! She invented systems for the humane treatment of livestock, advocates for the autistic, is an author, a professor and invented the hug box, a machine used to calm her anxiety due to her autism.
I am not autistic but I feel like I get Temple Grandin. She exists in the world of the senses as so many artists do. I often wonder if, as artists, we don’t all have aspects of a different kind of brain. I wonder if the prevalence of autism, ADHD, dyslexia and other learning differences aren’t just part of an evolving world crying out for something else.
My teacher and mentor Dave Passalaqua once told me that every artist is slightly dyslexic. I have seen extraordinary children create amazing works of art, and more often than not, those children are the children who don’t fit into school. When my son was diagnosed with dyslexia I was told that 1 in 5 children have a learning disability. In her lecture to the University of Michigan School of Art and Design, Temple talks about different types of thinking. She groups together the autistic, dyslexic and ADHD brain. I just like to call them different brains.
Lately I feel something is shifting in me. I think of Temple and how her puzzle piece fits into the world. I wrote this manifesto to remind myself of myself and to encourage all those different brains out there, artists or not:
There is nothing wrong with you. Learn your brain and conquer the world. The way you see, think, feel, make, process, create, move—its all unique to you. Know your brain, how it is wired and go from there. Create your world in harmony with that knowledge. Be true to that. Maximize that.
Work to uncover your gifts and bring out your brilliance. See where your uniqueness can fit into life, work, the world and participate in what may become inspiration to others. Do not stop until you have fit the puzzle piece of who you are into life. If things feel not quite right keep going.
Create a life that feels not just good, but miraculous from moment to moment. Live the life of the poet. The richness of your inner life is the source of your creative expression. I ask myself, can I work to break out of the box my brain has been molded by? Can I fight for a life where my spirits expression can be seen in everything I do? Felt in every action?
There is no objectivity—it’s all subjective, everything coming in and out of you. And it all happens in your brain. This is where enlightenment happens, in the brain. Enlightenment is not something bestowed by some cosmic force that may or may not exist. Once I realized this, all of heaven and earth opened up to me. I felt my power and no longer waited for it.
The world is of the senses, sensual. A place to experience in shape and color, sound, movement, the visual, light. Its all palpable. My feelings are seen in my body as shape and color. I am fed by the natural order of the things, I see and the invisible—just point the camera of my eyes and the glorious world appears. I just have to remember to go there.
To get a sense of who Temple Grandin is you can watch the Temple Grandin bio pic starring Clair Danes and the lecture Temple gave at the University of Michigan School of Art and Design called Thinking in Pictures.