Other Animals

I’m reading Temple Grandin’s book Thinking in Pictures: My Life With Autism. It’s got me thinking about all the assumptions we make about animals, about other people, about ourselves. How little we understand the incredible power and diversity of our own brains.

In both the field of animal behavior and in autism education, the number one mistake is misunderstanding the motivation of behavior.

– Temple Grandin

Walking down to the pasture next to my aunt and uncle’s house to visit the horses just underscores how little I understand other creatures — or myself. I want to rub the horse’s nose; the horse is uninterested. Why? What drives me to walk down to the pasture to connect with another species? What actually goes on inside the horse when I walk up?

And for that matter, what drives me to connect with some people, and flee others? What are the actual dynamics at work? When I even bother to think about why I react to a certain person a certain way, are the explanations I give myself accurate, or do they simply emerge from another layer of assumptions and misunderstandings?

Recently I heard someone remark, “Some people just seem to sit down and ask themselves, How can I mess up my life?” I took offense; no one does that, I thought to myself. And then I wondered, Or do they? Are there some people who actually set out deliberately on a self-destructive path? And it occurred to me that I don’t know. Maybe so.

Horses and dogs and cows and squirrels are other animals, but so are other people. We’re all other animals.