Dr. Oliver Sacks is dying.
This sentence will emit two kinds of reactions.
The first – tell us something new, and a remembrance of sadness.
The second – who is Dr. Oliver Sacks. (???)
To those of the second persuasion I can only suggest Google under the directive that you are in for a wonderful treat.
To the others who are familiar with the good doctor’s writings, I’ve always found something in his work and life that informed my own attempts at art making.
Sometimes the commentaries on his work are just as valuable as his own words. I don’t remember where I read this piece, but I deemed it worthy enough to be copied and kept. Reading it now, again, I understand why.
Sacks, often drawing on his own suffering, doesn’t romanticize the horror that many of his patients have faced over the years. He just recognizes that “there is no prescribed path of recovery;” patients must create their own solutions to the challenges they face. Sacks has deep affinities with those poets and scientists who are at home with contingency, with the fact that our complex brains, and our complex lives, can come together in ways that we make meaningful through narrative reconstruction but that could never has been predicted in advance.
I think all art is an act of resourcefulness. An attempt to create your own solution in a world which can sometimes be bereft of answers.
Complex brains and complex lives can sometimes lead to disarmingly simple art.
To be at home with contingency and that ability to hold contradictions is a valuable asset, not just in art making but life in general.