The “Charlie Gordon Effect”

Otherwise known as the “Algernon Effect.”

Have you ever read the book Flowers for Algernon? If you have not, I highly recommend it. Basically it chronicles the dealings of Charlie Gordon, an intellectually challenged adult in adult school who is chosen for an experimental intelligence-enhancing operation that was first tested on a lab mouse named Algernon, whom he becomes really close to almost right away.

As his intelligence grows, he realizes the “friends” he thought he had weren’t really friends at all and instead of being his friends they were really making fun of him. Over the course of this he grew to be bitter, resentful and hurt. He also develops a relationship with his teacher and learns what love is, but that is short-lived as the theory behind his intelligence-enhacing operation is flawed and he eventually regresses to his former self, but with full memory of what it’s like to be a genius and how hateful people can be to people who are “different.”

Upon breaking up with his teacher, this lab mouse whom he has grown fond of dies and before being sent away to a group home, he asks his teacher and former girlfriend to put flowers on Algernon’s grave (hence the title of the book). All in all a very sad and moving book but well worth a read.

Now, that is a very rough synopsis of the book but I think I hit all the high points. So how does it tie into what I call the “Charlie Gordon effect?” Well, as I think about my own life and the handicaps I have to face on a daily basis, this story serves as a reality check in a way.

I won’t lie when I say I wish I was “normal.” It’s something I frequently ponder and I can’t help wondering what it’s like to be neurotypical. It has to be better than being autistic, right? It must be nice to not have these limitations and difficulties with social interaction.

Most of the time I am asked if there was a cure available for autism would I take it and the answer is almost always “yes.” Of course, this is an answer I give without giving the whole thing too much thought and just romanticizing the idea of being neurotypical. I don’t much think of a potential ugly side of such a cure.

Is the grass really greener on the other side? Or would I just become another Charlie Gordon? Would I learn things that I am currently blissfully ignorant of that would change me for the worse? Would I eventually regress to my current state but with full memory of what it’s like to be “normal” and long for it again? I think these are serious questions to ponder.

Whatever the case, Flowers for Algernon¬†reminds me that I really need to be careful what I wish for, because in the end I just might not like it. Self-acceptance is something I do struggle with, but I’m working on it. As I beautify my body with the skilled artwork of tattoo artists, I feel as though I’m on the right path. In that way I find healing and motivation in my tattoos.

Anyway, just random ramblings for today. Do you agree? Or am I totally off my rocker?


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