On the Move - A Life

Dr. Sacks came into my life only the last few years. I believe I was introduced to him either via Radiolab or one of Jonah Lehrer’s pop-science books. But almost as soon as I became aware of him, I was enchanted by him. His soft tone of voice, his ability to build and convey beautiful narratives based on concepts in neuroscience and his explorations of topics far and wide like music, degenerative disorders, biological underpinning of social fabric and more were all part of my initial and continued interest in his work.

At the time of this introduction, I was developing a budding interest in neuroscience. Although my interest never really surpassed hobbyist levels, I credit Dr. Sacks for getting me up to speed on concepts and topics in this area. My interest is always piqued when Dr. Sacks’ voice comes across my radar - whether in an article, a book, a YouTube clip or a Radiolab segment.

Before reading this book, I knew little about his life. I knew about some of this neurological disorders he suffered from. Then, a few months ago, Dr. Sacks penned an op-ed in the Times about his cancer diagnosis and end-of-life outlook. I was moved when I read it. I shared and discussed it with friends. His approach to death, much like his approach to life, was marked by beautiful story telling. In just a few hundred words he crafted a remarkable approach to how he would spend his final days looking back on his life and preparing for its end.

So I arrived at this book as an interested party. Much like his other works, Dr. Sacks created a beautiful narrative in this book. I was happy to be along for the journey as he recounted stories and vignettes from his storied life. I was saddened when he talked about his abusive past, about going without love or sex for 35 years. I don’t think he ever meant to portray himself in a sad light, but that’s the reaction it espoused from me. I was fascinated to read about how deeply and fully he threw himself into so many things. From motorcycling, to power lifting, to medicine, to drugs, travel, friendships, his family. The depth of his experience in each of these areas is what I found most admirable. Anyone can pick up a new topic or a new passion for a month or year; but long-lasting, sustained commitment is rare and special.

Ultimately, that’s what I will remember Dr. Sacks for. His deep and thorough commitment to understanding everything he could about the topics he was passionate about. And secondly, how he shared all he learned with the world in a way that anyone could relate to. I consider these chief among plethora achievements in his life.