Oliver Sacks, M.D. died yesterday, Sunday August 30, 2015. I have written here: March 16, 2015 about Dr. Sacks’ resolve when he learned he was terminally ill but I was still shocked at his passing. I wondered if he expected to die so soon. I wish he had been my friend. He probably wouldn’t have been the easiest kind of friend but he would have been worth it.
I try to keep these Monday Musings to 250-300 words, so though I could go on for pages about what Oliver Sacks’ writing has meant to me, I’ll add links to a couple of articles instead. His February 19 Opinion essay, “My Own Life,” (New York Times) is jam-packed with wisdom earned in his 82 years of a remarkably full life.
Steve Silberman’s BuzzFeed article,* “How Oliver Sacks Helped Introduce the World to Autism,” chronicles the neurologist’s time in a psychiatric center in the 1960’s working with autistic patients and others. There he discovered that the “imbecilic” patients, as they were then called, often did not communicate with words but communicated with each other nonverbally all the time; that is, they were sentient human beings but they weren’t like the rest of us.
Dr. Sacks’ curiosity about neurological diseases including autism and the books he has written about people who aren’t like the rest of us has opened the minds of millions of readers. He said, “In examining disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy and physiology and biology. In examining the person with disease, we gain wisdom about life.”
Oliver Sacks, you taught us a lot about life and wisdom. You will be missed.
*Based on Silberman’s book, NeuroTribes, published this month by Avery Books.
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