Monday, December 27, 2010
The Mind's Eye
Thoughts on the latest book by Oliver Sacks
I have felt an affinity with Oliver Sacks ever since seeing the movie Awakenings (several times) and becoming absorbed in the young doctor's attempts to bring life back to the patients in limbo. The unfortunate side of seeing the movie is that I "see" Robin Williams whenever I read "Oliver Sacks". Perhaps not so bad, because it was Robin Williams in a less than usually manic role. I have taken Sacks' refusal to put limits on expectations into my work life - trying to see beyond the obvious in the children I teach, seeing more than meets the eye when what DOES meet the eye can be confronting, the disabilities seeming to outweigh the abilities.
Oliver Sacks is fascinated by the human brain and its curiosities: its ability to survive trauma, overcome obstacles, re-invent itself, provide the answer to one mystery while simultaneously creating another.... This latest book is no different and includes case histories and personal observations and includes torment and panic as the author's own eyesight is increasingly compromised by an ocular melanoma and he is drawn into what the mind does really see. I appreciate his ability to write mostly in terms the non-medical readers can follow without too much recourse to the dictionary, only getting a little lost when Sacks compares recent research with various theories surrounding everything from how plastic the brain remains, to the accuracy of visual perception in someone without sight. I will read some of those chapters again.
As always, I need to return to his previous books and follow the cross-referencing myself, doubtless getting lost in each book once again but rekindling my own wonder at the agility of the litttle grey cells.