I find myself this morning in a hypertensive pondering about my wonderful friends, colleagues, and peers who have become enamored with the idea of list-making. Writing a list of things to do, buy at the store, books to read, etc seem to be a worthy, time-consuming effort. But today I feel judgment of my people who are creating a game to share with our tribes that involves guessing which thing they did not do in a list. I posted a snobbish statement about the inanity of it on my own page and received an equal number of likes and thanks to those who wondered why I’m raining on their parade. I’m concerned about U.S. warships circling around in the Korean Peninsula while the nutcase in charge of a frightening arsenal of hell appears to be in a fully explosive rant igniting the dystopian future of our fears. For me, this brings back the question I used to ask myself and friends when I was 11, 12, 13 years-of-age: “If you knew the world was going to end suddenly, what is the one thing you would want to do in your last moments?” My early answers would be “playing with friends” which turned to “having sex” before I knew what that meant. Now, my answer is that I would like to be fully engaged with my mind in those final moments–creating something: a song, a letter, a story, with off moments spent reading the works of others.
In the event that our world changes abruptly in these next days, weeks, months–I have surrounded myself with all that I need to feel full. Among the books I have nearby are “Recording Unhinged” by Sylvia Massy and “The Great British Recording Studios” by Howard Massey–both fantastic and keenly unique. If you live a life in audio, these are must-haves.
Of course, I couldn’t even consider fulfilling my mental capacity with the words of others without several books authored by Oliver Sacks beside me. What follows is a list of a few of Oliver Sacks‘ prodigious oeuvre with statements copied from each hyperlinked website:
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat — The bestselling collection of clinical tales from the far borderlands of neurological and human experience.
Musicophilia Tales of Music and the Brain — Music is irresistible, haunting, and unforgettable, and in Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks tells us why. (The hyper-links to an excellent NYT article from 2007.)
The River of Consciousness — A collection of essays that displays Oliver Sacks’s passionate engagement with the most compelling and seminal ideas of human endeavor: evolution, creativity, memory, time, consciousness, and experience.
An Anthropologist on Mars — Neurological patients, Oliver Sacks has written, are travelers to unimaginable lands. An Anthropologist on Mars offers portraits of seven such travelers– including a surgeon consumed by the compulsive tics of Tourette’s Syndrome except when he is operating; an artist who loses all sense of color in a car accident, but finds a new sensibility and creative power in black and white; and an autistic professor who has great difficulty deciphering the simplest social exchange between humans, but has built a career out of her intuitive understanding of animal behavior.
These are paradoxical tales, for neurological disease can conduct one to other modes of being that–however abnormal they may be to our way of thinking–may develop virtues and beauties of their own. The exploration of these individual lives is not one that can be made in a consulting room or office, and Dr. Sacks has taken off his white coat and deserted the hospital, by and large, to join his subjects in their own environments. He feels, he says, in part like a neuroanthropologist, but most of all like a physician, called here and there to make house calls, house calls at the far borders of experience.
Feeling full and complete. If the world happens to keep itself together for another decade, then I’ve become all the more rich by this endeavor. I am conscious. I am awake.