This morning, for some reason, “Flowers for Algernon” came to mind.
If you haven’t read it, then – why?
Okay, not fair – maybe you’ve never heard of it. It’s a very well written short story (or is it a novella?) – about a retarded man (yes, I talk like that. I also use the masculine to denote the indefinite) who has an unspecified “operation” that turns him into – well, for lack of a better term, a super-genius.
The procedure was first tried on experimental animals, the most successful of which was a lab rat named – Algernon.
We watch his rise to dizzying heights of intellect and learning – but, just as he is outshining everybody, Algernon takes a turn for the worse; the rat slowly loses faculties, and eventually dies – and by the time this happens, our protagonist has started to see his own abilities disintegrating, as well.
This morning, as I was moving around like Uncle Joe at the Junction*, and painfully aware of my declining physical fitness, I was thinking about how “Flowers for Algernon” is a short metaphor for life, itself – we start out pretty slowly, and then – if given the right impetus – we find ourselves able to do things that we never imagined, in our youth; mentally and physically.
But about the time that we reach our personal zeniths, we realize that things have already started to fade – and we know that we’re going to continue to lose abilities and awareness, and that there is nothing at all that we can do to stop it.
So, that was this morning – Flowers for Algernon, in that context, was just another morality play – another way of saying the same thing, yet again. All of the ego’s tales end the same way.
But this afternoon, I’m taking it much more personally.
Just fixed a couple of bugs. I thought I’d done pretty well at it. But then the review comments started coming in, and I became aware – yet again – that my brain not only doesn’t work as well as it once did; it doesn’t work as well as the brains of those around me.
I am below average.
As a youth, I was called somewhat of a prodigy; the expected accomplishments never materialized, but then, what can you do with a brain that’s saddled by alcoholism, ADD, and laziness?
But still, I managed from time to time to shine.
However, the shine is gone; I’m not only dumb, but I’m walking around with a bit of a self-conscious fear that the folks around my know that I’m dumb, and that they are only being polite in not pointing it out – but I also suspect that they might be getting tired of it.
Now I’m just trying to make it through today.
If I do, then I reckon I’ll hit the couch after work.
And re-read “Flowers for Algernon”.
*if you’re not familiar with this reference – well, that’s Uncle Joe, and he’s moving kinda slow, at the Junction. Petticoat Junction!