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Oliver Sacks

As a fan of Oliver Sacks, I will greatly miss his wisdom and enthusiasm for discovery and life.

“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.”

“We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust’s jars of preserves in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and recategorized with every act of recollection.”

“Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. It has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation.” (Musicophilia)

“Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.” (Musicophilia)

“If we wish to know about a man, we ask ‘what is his story–his real, inmost story?’–for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us–through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives–we are each of us unique.” (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat)

“Language, that most human invention, can enable what, in principle, should not be possible. It can allow all of us, even the congenitally blind, to see with another person’s eyes.”

“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see over-all patterns in our lives. We need hope, the sense of a future. And we need freedom (or, at least, the illusion of freedom) to get beyond ourselves, whether with telescopes and microscopes and our ever-burgeoning technology, or in states of mind that allow us to travel to other worlds, to rise above our immediate surroundings.

We may seek, too, a relaxing of inhibitions that makes it easier to bond with each other, or transports that make our consciousness of time and mortality easier to bear. We seek a holiday from our inner and outer restrictions, a more intense sense of the here and now, the beauty and value of the world we live in.”

“But who was more tragic, or who was more damned—the man who knew it, or the man who did not?” (The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat)

“Life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards.” —Kierkegaard” (On the Move: A Life)

“And in its broadest sense, neural Darwinism implies that we are destined, whether we wish it or not, to a life of particularity and self-development, to make our own individual paths through life.” (On the Move: A Life)

“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.”

Don’t know Oliver Sacks? Check out his website and some podcasts:

Featured image of Oliver Sacks from Erik Charlton via Wikicommons

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