Temple Grandin: A Neurodivergent Mind I Understand
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Temple Grandin is one of my favorite educators and thinkers. I was first introduced to her with the 2010 Temple Grandin movie starring Claire Daines. It was released after my first brush with psychosis but before my complete break down in late 2011. She was diagnosed with autism at a young age and learned how to manage her extraordinary neurodivergent mind.
I watched the film again many years later with fresh eyes. With the eyes of a man looking for answers. My life was turned upside down due to a coke addiction and severe mental illness. My body was healing and recovering. My mind was healing too. So was my brain. Not only was my brain healing, it was actually changing. The way it processed information was changing. And it was happening in real-time. I was a witness to its evolution and emerging skills/gifts.
“The most obvious example of this change was the constant hallucinations/images that now accompanied all my thinking and reasoning.”
When I watched the TED talk Temple gave, she made a very clear statement that she “thinks in pictures.” This was the first time in all the hallucination research I was doing that someone acknowledged the fact that the “pictures” or for me “videos” could be used to learn.
Other hallucination research, specifically hypnagogic hallucinations, have led to significant “aha” moments but no one has yet studied the wealth of knowledge available in these “pictures” and “videos”. She was doing what I was doing, using these images to educate herself. Nikola Tesla had the same gift. He did the same thing.
Temple Grandin doesn’t even call them hallucinations (Maybe technically they’re not. It’s just how her mind has always worked.) Not so for me, I witnessed how my mind worked before the drug fueled mental illness, during the mental illness, and after the mental illness.
Now, I have access to another level of intelligence that I’m still getting my head around. It’s both visual and cerebral. I see things others don’t and my brain is interpreting this visual information for me so I can understand my newly expanded Umwelt.
At one point in her TED talk, Temple Grandin explains how she can visualize a piece of equipment she designed for cattle handling facilities. She can then test run the design in her mind, just like a virtual reality computer system. She can work out any design flaws before it’s even built. Not a bad skill to have.
What’s cool for me is that I’ve done the same thing. Except my design is not around equipment for cattle handling facilities. My design is a new fluid mathematical coordinate system that I’ve created. The entire thing is built in my mind. The math is simple, but the structure that I’ve created is extremely complex. It’s so complex because it changes as you move through the system. It revolves around a fluid origin. What’s different is that it has multiple origins. Not just one. This allows the user to see the input variables and solutions from different perspectives. What’s also cool is that my brain/mind would not allow me to see the next level of the system I was creating until I completely understood the level I was working on. It was like my brain knew when it was ready to show me the next challenge. It knew when I was ready to level up. It took me about seven years to build this thing. It’s tucked away in my brain ready to build in real life. I just need a team of software engineers or perhaps even video game developers. The only problem is that it uses a new numbering system, there’s no first number, so we have to start from scratch. It’s not really a problem. Starting over can be good sometimes.
I mean really…the natural numbers are the foundation that the rest of our numbering system is built on? You’re going to tell me that the universe of chaotic numbers is built on a system where everything is perfectly ordered. Please…give me a break.
“The good lord made all the integers, the rest is mans doing.” That quote by Leopold Kronecker is probably the most wrong math quote of all time.
It should be something like, “the integers are a good start for man, they’ve guided mathematicians for thousands of years, but good lord lets move on… how can there be only one first number?”
About the system, it’s easiest to use as a 2 dimensional coordinate system. But the real magic happens when it evolves into a 3 plus dimension coordinate system that changes depending on how far you stray from the first origin. And whether you want to look at the solution from inside the system or from outside the system. The fact that there are multiple origins helps when you’re winding or weaving through the more distant points. Imagine a complex coordinate system with the directional significance of quaternions and evolving dimensions.
You cant. I know. I’ll show you.
In this video excerpt from my recent keynote at the Mental Health Marketing conference in Nashville, I explain how my normal vision (your normal vision too) sees the electromagnetic spectrum and how my Upsight vision sees the electromagnetic spectrum.
If you’re a physicist, you’ll notice how I’ve included gravity in my illustration. You might be thinking… News Flash Tom…gravity is not a part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Not as we currently understand the electromagnetic spectrum anyway.
I can see exactly how gravity fits in and why it’s so weak. I don’t have the physics expertise or desire to debate this observation. Not to mention the fact that I don’t want to debate this illustration. It would be like a teacher debating a colorblind student about the colors of the rainbow.
Some hallucinations are fleeting, like dreams. Not this one. It emerges exactly the same in my field of vision every time I manifest the desire to see it.
I would love a chance to prove this in a lab. But I don’t have a lab. I have a living room. I need a lab. And a team.
Temple Grandin's TED Talk is called “The world needs all kinds of minds” It’s worth your time. So is the movie. She’s a unique mind in the history of our human evolution. Hopefully one day we can meet and perhaps even keynote the same event.
Important: Even though the image in my presentation is more than you typically see in Wikipedia or in physics books, it’s still only a small part of of the entire electromagnetic spectrum that I see.