Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: COMPUTER (05/19/16)
- TITLE: More Than a Computer
By Noel Mitaxa
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The great big freeway that is LA has fed his greed, but now it’s underscoring his need. Cars for cash, and now he needs cash for cars. No ordinary cars, but four dream machines that could break any speed limit while still standing at the kerb!
Such is the nature of an exotic beast called Lamborghini: oozing with streamlined gloss and pulsating with power; and snapped up by four eager buyers.
Babbitt has their down-payments, but they don’t yet have their cars. And he needs the balance to pay out what he has borrowed in order to ship them from Italy.
Enter the EPA, which has blocked the vehicles at port because they don’t meet US emissions regulations, and Charlie is running low on excuses to placate his creditor and his buyers.
Learning that his estranged father has died, he quickly travels east to Cincinatti, Ohio, to settle the estate. For him, a 1949 Buick and dad’s rose bushes; with most of the three-million-dollar estate somehow bequeathed to a mental institution. A mental institution? When he could kiss all his money worries goodbye if it came his way? Where it should go?
Managing to adopt a concerned facade, he visits this institutional impediment to his answer…
Enter a resident, Babbitt’s older brother Raymond, previously unknown to him.
Raymond’s autism confines him to strict routines like watching The People’s Court on television each night. His amazing capacity for recall of detail contrasts with his absence of any displays of emotion.
Babbitt smuggles this brother out of the institution, seeking to use him as bargaining chip: half the money in exchange for his return. But after the doctor refuses, he decides to try to secure custody in order to get control of the total estate.
Raymond refuses to fly to California, insisting that every airline has a crash record―except for Australia’s QANTAS―so Charlie has to agree to a road odyssey. Raymond continues to instantly count hundreds of objects at once, making calculations far beyond the normal range for regular people. This mentally-taxing torrent, plus his rigid adherence to routine―like 11pm bedtimes―and his insistence on avoiding freeways, makes for a very slow road odyssey.
But Charlie’s ordeal gradually teaches him about deeper values than dollars, and gives him time to recover unexpected memories.
It dawns on him that Raymond had actually lived with the family; and that a comforting, imaginary childhood friend he’d named "Rain Man;" was actually Raymond―a name he could not then properly pronounce―who had been institutionalized after an accidental but serious burn incident when he was just a child.
Having discovered that the cars have been seized by the creditor, they pause long enough in a Las Vegas casino table for Raymond to calculate the permutations of cards played, thus recouping all Charlie’s losses. And much more; as Charlie steps up to refuse a quarter of a million dollars to hand Raymond back; as he now wants to form a relationship with his brother.
Thus the hustler becomes compassionate; disarmed by the unlikely means of someone with no apparent emotions at all. Little more than a human computer.
So runs the movie Rain Man, a 1988 Oscar-winner that starred Dustin Hoffman as Raymond and Tom Cruise as Charlie, which introduced the wider world to the Savant syndrome which affects a small percentage of people whose lives are captured within the spectrum of autism.
This syndrome; so-named from the French word for “knowledge;” opens astounding but extremely-narrow measures of knowledge to people who are otherwise unable to perform the simplest tasks or form even basic relationships.
Some theologians speculate that this syndrome offers a glimpse of something that has not been touched by mankind’s original fall from God’s grace, to indicate what our potential might have been in every area of life; had we not stepped away from him in Eden.
Yet all is not lost, as Paul the Apostle, who modestly affirmed that he knew a man who was once caught up to the third heaven(1) assured his fractured friends in Corinth. “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”(2) A thought echoed by John, that “we are God’s children now, and what we shall be has not yet been known, but what we know that when he appears we shall be like him.”(3)
(1) 2 Cor 12: 2,
(2) 1 Cor 13: 12,
(3) 1 John 3: 2
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