Book reflection: Gratitude - by Oliver Sacks

Spring flowers

Oliver Sacks has always been one of my favourite writers. As a neurologist, his book, The man who mistook his wife for a hat is superbly written and details the many peculiar and bizarre neurological cases he’s studied through the years. His writing is also very insightful. The New York Times calls him the ‘poet laureate of medicine’. He was able to complete a few short essays before passing away from cancer in 2015. He was eighty-two.

I am now face-to-face with dying but I am not finished with living.Oliver Sacks

The pandemic has given me an opportunity to retreat and reflect a lot about my past, and to be quite honest, I also spent a lot of time complaining about the difficulty of the present and anxiously agonizing about what the future would look like. Reading this short collection of essays has reminded me how very short life really is. Our mortality is a fate we all share and personally, thinking about the end offers a valuable perspective on what matters most to me. It reminds me that I want to live a deliberate and meaningful life.

I am grateful that I have experienced many things - some wonderful, some horrible… Gratitude for what I had been given by others, gratitude too that I had been able to give something back.Oliver Sacks

The past 18 months have been my most challenging yet, but it’s also been a period of my life where I’ve celebrated the greatest joys, found incomparable triumphs, and experienced the truest forms of love. Although living in the midst of an economic recession, I found myself rich in everything I needed, most especially rich in loyal and authentic relationships. I have been given so much, ‘we’re only paying it forward’, they say. How lucky am I to have people like these in my life, who demonstrate quiet compassion and reflective appreciation.

My father, who lived to ninety-four, often said that the eighties had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking, but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. At eighty, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age… freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.Oliver Sacks

 

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