Friday, February 20, 2015

The gratitude is ours, Dr. Sacks

Without being my specialization at all, I have been a consistent reader of the books by Dr. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and writer. His book chapters on individuals who experienced interesting phenomena in their mind (he writes as if the individuals were not victims of any illnesses, but of special circumstances) always gave me pause for thought and were great sources of entertainment. I remember knowing from his books about the Tourette syndrome (and reflecting that perhaps some of my acquaintances had it), or becoming amazed about people asking to get back to blindness because they could not cope with the sudden gift of vision. Now Oliver Sacks announces that his body will leave us soon. But what a productive life! Happily, he has several books down the road, including his autobiography. So, from the point of view of his readers, his real death is still very far away. This is part of his farewell article in the New York Times: "This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.
I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.
I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."

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