The Mind’s Eye: “Flowers For Algernon”.
Inspired by Plato’s philosophy, a rap artist from Philly, and the miseducation of Pendarvis.
“Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eye are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.”- Plato’s Republic.
Plato’s philosophy on what bewilders the mind’s eye is the driving thought behind the classic novel, “Flowers for Algernon”, written by Daniel Keys. With an original date of publication in 1958, who could have foreseen that a little more than 50 years later, this same book would exemplify the bewilderment in my mind’s eye.
I first encountered the novel in 8th grade as an assigned book report. After grading my report, my 8th grade English teacher, Ms. Jones, gave me a good grade and an even better opportunity: a pamphlet for an organization called “A Better Chance“. The organization’s mission was to identify young students who are excelling in their inner-city schools, and give them an opportunity to seek a well-rounded education at schools with greater resources, such as private or preparatory schools. I took that opportunity; never could I have imagined how the book, the assignment, and the pamphlet would forever alter my educational path.
The story of “Flowers for Algernon” is the diary-style log of a character named Charlie, and his experiences as he goes through a roller-coaster ride of enlightenment and bewilderment. Charlie, a mentally challenged middle aged janitor is chosen to be the subject of an experimental operation. He is coupled with a mouse, Algernon, who has also recently gone through the same surgery. Both experiments are momentary successes, but Algernon’s mental capacity soon begins to dwindle. Upon noticing the change in the mouse, Charlie assumes that his newly acquired IQ will soon wane as well. In effort to counteract the mental decay, Charlie finds and fixes the error in the doctor’s formula; he calls it the “Algernon-Gordon Effect”. The alteration is too late for the mouse, who’s erratic behavior and diminishing metal heath eventually leads to death. After witnessing this, Charlie takes no action to stop his decline back to the slow side, and ultimately he fully regresses to the state of mental retardation he once was. The final entry to the journal which captures Charlie’s short experience with genius-hood, asks that the reader put fresh flowers on Algernon’s grave.
The story also intertwines a love story, but it was the story of the process of enlightenment and bewilderment in the mind’s eye that spoke to me….
A college schoolmate from Philly, a lyricist by the name of ” Dru Chris ” ( @DruChris) , made a song called “Flowers For Algernon”, Dru_Chris_The_Arsonist.m64153.html (Track number 8)
I had completely forgotten about the story of Charlie and the mouse since going through what I would call my “enlightenment” period.
After taking classes on Greek, African, and Western philosophy, I now understand….
The opening and closing of the mind’s eye is symbolic for the cycle of life. You see it flowers. You see it in the moon. You see it sexual organs. You see it in human beings… Infants and elderly people share many of the same characteristics!
“…which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.”- Plato.
The opening & closing of the mind’s eye. Another form of the cycle of life- represented through all of the aforementioned naturally occurring instances… As well as through a slow middle aged janitor and deceased lab rat… Inspired by Plato … And brought back to my mind by a rapper from Philly.
It’s crazy how the mind works….
…. Just a train of thought….