Ratha (papertygre) wrote,

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Animals in Translation; Thinking without language; Directly perceiving

After seeing it advertised on marginalrevtion, I ran out and bought Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. I haven't read Grandin's Thinking in Pictures yet, but I'm beginning to wonder why not. The story is captivating me so far, and here is something that leapt out and screamed "blog me":
When I say I'm a visual thinker I don't mean just that I'm good at making architectural drawings and designs, or that I can design my cattle-restraining systems in my head. I actually think in pictures. During my thinking process I have no words in my head at all, just pictures.

That's true no matter what subject I'm thinking about. For instance, if you say the word "macroeconomics" to me I get a picture of those macramé flowerpot holders people used to hang from their ceilings. That's why I can't understand economics or algebra; I can't picture it accurately in my mind. I flunked algebra. But other times thinking in pictures is an advantage. During the 1990s I knew all the dot-coms would go to hell, because when I thought about them the only images I saw were the rented office space and computers that would be obsolete in two years. There wasn't anything real I could picture; the companies had no hard assets. My stockbroker asked me how I knew the two stock market crashes would happen, and I told him, "When the Monopoly play money starts jerking around the real money you're in trouble. (p. 17; emphasis mine)
Grandin's thesis is that many animals are incredibly smart, and that they differ from humans mainly in being alinguistic, being dominated by detail, and frequently having the capability of impressive feats of memory and skill. In other words, they're basically autistic.

kenoubi and I have talked about wordless thinking before. He is reluctant to believe it's even possible, but I insist that I actually do most of my thinking without language, and then I have to translate it into English (or, more like, serialize it) in order to express it. I'm fascinated, and also frustrated, by the autistic spectrum because I find so much that I can relate to (like thinking without language) and yet just as much that I can't relate to (like having trouble understanding why a small dog isn't a cat, i.e., difficulty with categories).

Anyway, from the perspective of Zen, or for that matter from practically any perspective, that kind of ability to directly grasp the real situation despite all the emperor's-new-clothes obfuscation is perfectly awe-inspiring. Especially the ability to grasp it and then trust it.
Tags: as, books, cognition, essays, intelligence, language, zen

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