On Friday, September 13, 2002, Jason Padgett was leaving a Tacoma, Washington karaoke bar when two men attacked him, hitting and kicking him in the head and body, and causing a severe concussion. Post attack, he suffered from PTSD, OCD, and depression. When he finally came back out into the world he also noticed a new ability – the ability to see mathematical shapes and angles everywhere in real life, from the geometry of a rainbow, to the fractals in water spiraling down a drain. Researchers discovered that Jason’s brain had basically rewired itself around the damage to do new and exciting things. Jason is what is called an “Acquired Savant,” someone who develops astonishing new abilities as the result of some sort of head trauma.
Jason isn’t the only one. You have all probably seen the famous frame by frame photos of a horse at full gallop, proving that a horse lifts all four hooves off the ground at one point in its sequence of motion. Photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s studies in the visual world of motion pushed the development of the recorded image into what is still unfolding today. His obsession with the study began after his involvement in a tragic stagecoach accident in the 1880’s and the resulting brain trauma he suffered.
Alonzo Clemons became a renowned sculptor after a severe fall. Derek Amato woke up after a head injury from diving into a pool with incredible musical talent and ability. Orlando Serrell was hit in the head with a baseball, after which he had perfect calendar memory of the weather, where he was, and what he was doing on any given day.
As I watched the YouTube video featuring Jason, I reflected on my own head trauma, the subsequent surgery and ongoing “programming” involved, as well as my lack of patience for improvement, and I can’t help but wonder – when do I get MY special ability?
Last Thursday, leaving the Neurologist’s office after my 5th programming session, I was feeling pretty good about my progress. My left hand was moving well, and now my left foot was no longer pulling in clockwise, which causes me to walk with a lurch. I was strolling along normally, upright and with a spring in my step!
A few hours later, my arm was pulled in to my chest, my hand was flapping hello to no one in particular, my thigh was spasming, and my left foot was spinning in circles like the propeller on a plane. Damn. These symptoms, along with a pounding headache, laid doubt to my decision to go through with brain surgery. But I wasn’t giving in yet.
My electronic cyborg apparatus comes with a remote control with which I can make small adjustments to the current being piped into my brain. I can even turn it off completely. I began to experiment. Turning up the voltage caused my cheek to spasm and my eye to twitch. Nope. Turning it down didn’t seem to make any difference (I later learned that the frequency needed adjusting, something my remote couldn’t do). I spent the entire weekend this way, fluttering around like a monstrous hummingbird by day, flapping the covers and kicking my wife by night.
Surely this rates getting a new savant ability? At least the ability to remember where I left my glasses?
By the time I was able to get into the office to get readjusted, I was ready to pull the plug on the whole shebang. I mean, things weren’t going that bad before I let them rewire me, were they? Wrong again. The first thing the doc did was shut it all down. After a couple of minutes, the flapping sped up, the whirring increased, and spasms in my butt cheeks threatened to chuck me out of the chair.
“Hmm” said the doctor, “it appears that you now have Parkinson’s tremors.” Huh. “Isn’t that what I already had?” I asked. “No, your original tremors are caused by your Dystonia.” Huh. Go figure. He then proceeded to create a whole new program to cover my new “condition.” He declared it “Program #2,” as if I had graduated to a whole new level in my progression. I’m so proud.
As I sit here writing this, my programming renewed but not quite as good as it was, and after fixing another spelling error because the constantly tapping fingers of my left hand keep typing extra letters or hitting the shift key at the wRonG time, I can’t help but wonder – would it be so difficult to give me some special ability? Any ability?
I’m not asking for anything monumental like telepathy or telekinesis (I wouldn’t turn them down, mind you), just something normal like knowing what’s on TV on any given day, or remembering what my wife asked me to do yesterday. I’d even settle for being able to concentrate on a single task like writing, without getting sidetracked with something ridiculous, like wondering what the heck happened to the country group SHeDAISY (they are all happily married and raising their families, by the way).
And sure, the special abilities come with side effects. But my office space could benefit from a little OCD, and come on, who isn’t depressed sometimes (except for my wife)?
So I’m putting it out there into the universe for whomever is in charge of granting these kind of wishes – I am ready and willing to take on an astonishing new ability.
Even if it’s just being able to see in the dark on one of my many nighttime trips to the bathroom (who put that darn chair there anyway?).