Friday, July 30, 2004

Do cows believe in Feng Shui?

Ms Temple Grandin thinks like a cow. She figured this out early on in life, and in her book "Thinking inPictures" explains how an autistic brain perceives ideas. Images, connected to feelings, yield an interpretation of either peace or danger. Because this process bypasses the normal "rational" sustems of a non-autistic brain which uses language-based labels to define events, Ms Grandin is forever re-teaching herself the notion of safety. Like a cow (or a pig, or a horse...) Ms Grandin is extremely challenged by an "un-natural" environment and its ubiquitous stimuli on the senses.

Taken out of her comfort zone, Ms Grandin will feel un-settled, anxious and jumpy. Her stress level goes up and if she were indeed a cow, her flesh would become unfit for consumption. PSE (pale, soft and exudative flesh) and DFD (dark, firm and dry flesh) meat can taint up to 50% of the harvest, making life difficult for the cattle rancher.

And so they have come to Dr Grandin, who teaches at the University of Colorado, to learn how to handle a cow with decency.

To get an idea of what the lesson is, go to Dr Temple Grandin's web site. You might see there advice that would befit any human indeed. Substitute a few words, and the recipe for a stress-free living environment would go something like this:

No loud noises, use gentle movements around each other, keep surroundings clean and garabage free. Don't hit. Don't overcrowd. Don't put up with sharp protruding objects or things that look like they are. Level the floor, make the way smooth, factor in a flow that is kind to the body and facilitate gentle transitions from one state of mind to the next. Harmonize colors and eliminate openings that yield sights of unrest and chaos. Darkness disolving into light is good, the opposite, cause for concern.

An aerial photograph of a stress-free path to the slaughterhouse shows a sinew walled passage that seems to undulate like a wave. We are reminded of life's twists and turns. We imagine the placid cow walking into a sunset, not minding one bit what truth there is on the other side, being completely satisfied with the Here and the Now.

Oh, that we could ever know such contentment each and every one of our living days.