Gathered Links: Knowing Life
What I think about as I go through these links:
– I’m not the only one who gets a rush of faith when my health (or my son’s) is returning to functioning
– how in one moment, we can be taken to several other places in time, making associative leaps
– how memory works that way too, one idea can take our minds to another point in time
– joy in observing and experiencing new things, the joy in my work
– the humility of accepting that joy as enough
– we want to know ourselves and others, though there’s no exactness to it
– the only experience we truly know is our own
– the beauty of living simply, enjoying our work for its own merits
FYI: all links below are provided in this order->
• format (listen/read/watch/see)
• title with hyperlink
• original publish/broadcast date
• text, excerpted from linked sources
Oct 27, 2017 (at about 6m30sec mark)
Bill Hayes, narrating: For Oliver, writing was a form of thinking and the primary activity for a human being.
Oliver Sacks: My normal, my normal health, normal, state of health, and energy…
The New Yorker: Ninth Avenue Reverie by Oliver Sacks
March 30, 2015
Sacks’ essay… “Driving down Ninth Avenue, choking on diesel fumes from a truck just ahead of us, I say to my friend Billy (he is exactly two-thirds my age), “I wonder whether you will see the end of internal-combustion engines, the end of oil, a cleaner world.” A cleaner world. The thought zooms me away from Ninth Avenue to a forest world—in particular, to the one described in “That Glorious Forest,” Sir Ghillean Prance’s book about his thirty-nine visits to the Amazon in the past fifty years. … I went to that glorious forest in 1996—eleven days of botany, study, and hiking, seeing hundreds of different species of trees in a single acre. I had planned, before I became ill, to go to Madagascar, to see its forests—and its unique fauna and other wildlife, especially the lemurs. I love lemurs.
Time.com: The Downside of Having an Almost Perfect Memory by Amanda Macmillan
Dec 8, 2017
Price, who would later become the first person to be diagnosed with HSAM, had complained that her extraordinary memory was a burden. “Whenever I see a date flash on the television (or anywhere else for that matter) I automatically go back to that day and remember where I was, what I was doing, what day it fell on and on and on and on and on,” she had written in an email to McGaugh. “It is non-stop, uncontrollable, and totally exhausting.”
The New Yorker: The Catastrophe: Spalding Gray’s Brain Injury by Oliver Sacks
Apr 27, 2015
There was a brief, dramatic break in Spalding’s rumination just a week before he came to see us, when he had to have surgery because one of the titanium plates in his skull had shifted. The operation took four hours, under general anesthesia. Coming to from the anesthesia and for about twelve hours afterward, Spalding was his old self, talkative and full of ideas. His rumination and hopelessness had vanished—or, rather, he now saw how he could use the events of the past two years creatively in one of his monologues. But by the next day this brief excitement or release had passed. As Orrin and I talked over Spalding’s story and observed his peculiar immobility and lack of initiative, we wondered whether an organic component, caused by the damage to his frontal lobes, had played a part in his strange “normalization” after anesthesia….The frontal lobes are among the most complex and recently evolved parts of the brain—they have vastly enlarged over the past two million years. Our power to think spaciously and reflectively, to bring to mind and hold many ideas and facts, to attend to and maintain a steady focus, to make plans and put them into motion—these are all made possible by the frontal lobes.
Hidden Brain: The Sorting Hat: Can a Personality Test Tell Us About Who We Are? hosted by Shankar Vedantam
Dec 4, 2017
In one of the most famous scenes from the Harry Potter series, a group of kids, new to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, line up before an old and crumpled wizard’s hat. It is the sorting hat. The hat will tell them which house they’ll belong to during their Hogwarts education. There is something deeply appealing about the sorting hat. It is wise. It seems to know people better than they know themselves. We humans love this kind of insight. And our drive to better understand ourselves and the people around us has led to the creation of a multi-billion dollar industry built around personality testing. This week, we delve into the world of personality tests, and discover new research that suggests the power of personality assessments may not be in pinpointing the person you are, but the person you have the potential to become.
NYT Book Review: How Emmanuel Carrère Reinvented Nonfiction by Wyatt Mason
Mar 2, 2017
“I’m not an idiot,” Carrère has said about the moment after he wrote those lines. “I very quickly realized that this impossible book to write was now becoming possible, that it was practically writing itself, now that I had accepted writing it in the first person. … Others are a black box, especially someone as enigmatic as Romand. I understood that the only way to approach it was to consent to go into the only black box I do have access to, which is me.” In the work that followed “The Adversary,” Carrère has continued to present himself presenting the lives of others. Though that might sound narcissistic, it has the upending feeling, for the reader, of humility in action. There’s a reason for this. Carrère told a great story to The Paris Review about the source of that humility: A little girl once said something in front of me that I just loved. She had misbehaved and her mother was scolding her, saying, “But put yourself in other people’s position!” And the little girl answered, “But if I put myself in their position, where do they go?” I have often thought of that since I started writing these kinds of “nonfiction” books, the rules and moral imperatives of which I was starting to become acquainted with. I don’t think you can put yourself in other people’s positions. Nor should you. All you can do is occupy your own, as fully as possible, and say that you are trying to imagine what it’s like to be someone else, but say it’s you who’s imagining it, and that’s all.
Lives Other Than My Own by Emmanuel Carrère
English translation copyright 2011
After the girls were in bed, Patrice and I went down to his studio in the basement, where he had made up a bed for me. He talked about a comic strip he was planning, one of his usual stories about knights and princesses, to be entitled “The Paladin.” Really? The Paladin? I smiled, and he laughed a little ruefully, but proudly, too, as if to say, I am what I am. In the meantime, he had a commission, some sketches for a story set in a kennel with a half dozen dogs, familiar character types like the grumpy Rottweiler, the stuck-up poodle, the muscle-bound Dalmatian who likes to show off, the adorable mutt–who I suspected would be the noble hero of these tales. When I said as much, Patric gave me that same little laugh, meaning, Nice going, you got me, paladin and simpleton, that’s me. I looked at the drawings, one by one: a comic strip for children, a bit old-fashioned but drawn with a delicate and confident hand, and with incredible modesty. I should say, with incomprehensible modesty, because it’s a trait I can’t understand. I’m ambitious, I worry. I have to believe that when I’m writing is exceptional, that it will be admired, and I get excited believing this but collapse if I lose faith. Not Patrice. He enjoys drawing but doesn’t believe his work is exceptional and doesn’t need to believe it to live at peace with himself. Neither does he try to change his style That would be as impossible for him as changing his dreams: he has no control there. I decided that in this respect he was an artist.