RIP Oliver Sacks

While wandering through the Naperville Barnes & Noble one Saturday night, I found ‘The Mind’s Eye’ ensconced in a pile of self-help books.

At the time, I knew nothing of Oliver Sacks or his material, but over the last month I’ve had a crash-course in psychology, cultural history, cycling, and life in general from Michelle (a beautiful 1%er whose mind is overflowing with material more than her room is with books). She has a voracious taste for this type of material, and considering that I was listlessly slogging around waiting for her to get home that night, I picked it up. The title bounded around in my head and lit up some evasive memories that, although not clear, promised it to be an interesting read.

‘The Mind’s Eye’ in hand:

  • I instantly devoured the preface and first chapter in the B&N’s Starbucks (reading is a scarce pleasure these days, books best consumed in ‘starving mongrel mode’)
  • Later that night, Michelle gave me a heartful chuckle and a rough breakdown 🙂 Supposedly he is well known in the States (who knew?)
  • The following week on a flight from Atlanta to South Africa, during a random encounter with Linda, a new Peace Corps volunteer heading to Zambia, she explained that he is a writer for the New Yorker – a magazine of which she is an ardent fan

I’m sure you’re familiar with the hyper-sensitivity you get for a topic when you’re engrossed in it. You notice strange names and correlations everywhere. Not really unusual. Well, while broaching the book’s autobiographic section on the onset of his eye tumour on the 30th August, I notice his name in my Facebook stream. Hyper-sensitivity aside, it’s truly uncanny when you first read the line in his book:

“It’s a melanoma” he confirmed, but immediately went on to say that ocular melanomas rarely metastasized – there was little chance of any spread beyond the eye.
– ‘The Mind’s Eye’ by Oliver Sacks

And then subsequently seeing the line in the NY Time article:

Dr. Sacks announced in February, in an Op-Ed essay in the New York Times, that an earlier melanoma in his eye had spread to his liver and that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer.
– ‘Oliver Sacks, Neurologist Who Wrote About the Brain’s Quirks, Dies at 82’ in NY Times

It was like reading Colin Dexter describing the death of Inspector Morse in The Remorseful Day, but as if Colin Dexter was writing about himself.

Incredibly moving… and sad.

From not knowing anything about this person, to appreciating his gentle insight into the inner workings of the mind. From his topic’s opening interesting conversations with soon-to-be friends, to reading about his fear as he found out about the cancer. From a stranger, to mourning without ever meeting them.

RIP Oliver Sacks.

– Sam

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