"There are, as we will no longer be." Oliver Sacks about life, death and the meaning of
• "Such as we will no longer be." Oliver Sacks about life, death and the meaning of
One year ago has died, Oliver Sachs - one of the most famous psychologists of our time. We publish his last column, written six months before his death. Believe me, it is worth reading.
"A month ago, it seemed to me that I have good health, even strong. I'm 81, but I still swam a mile a day. But my luck ran out. A few weeks ago I found out that my liver multiple metastases. Nine years ago, it was discovered that I had a rare tumor of the eye. Due to radiation therapy and lasers in which the tumor was removed, I eventually went blind in one eye. In my case, the probability that the eye tumor metastasis let, was small - but I had no luck. "
I feel grateful for the nine years of healthy and productive life after initial diagnosis, but today I am face to face with death. Cancer has absorbed a third of my liver, and although its spread can be slowed down, it can not be stopped.
I have to figure out how to live my remaining months. I should live their richest, most profound, the most productive manner. On this I am inspired by the words of one of my favorite philosophers David Hume, who in 65 years to learn that terminally ill, wrote a short autobiography. He took it for only one day in April 1776. He called it "My Life".
"I suffered very little from his illness, and that even more curious, in spite of the severe depletion of the body, my composure for a minute did not leave me, - Hume wrote. - I have kept the same passion for science, the same vivacity in society, as well as before. "
I am fortunate that I have lived for more than 80 years, 15 years longer Hume, and the years were as rich in terms of work and love. During this time I published five books and finished his autobiography (it is longer than a few pages of Hume), which will be published this spring. And I almost finished a few more books.
"I - continues to Hume - different nature gentleness, self-control, open, sociable and cheerful disposition, ability to bind, inability to feed hatred and great moderation in all passions."
Here I differ from Hume. Although I enjoyed warm relations and friendship, I have no real enemies, I can not say that I am a gentle person. On the contrary, I am a person quite militant, I often cover violent bouts of enthusiasm and full of excesses in all my hobbies.
Yet another line of Hume's essay seems to me remarkably faithful: "It's hard to be less attached to life than I am now."
Over the past few days, I could see my life as if from a great height, as the landscape and deepened in me a sense of the connectedness of all its components. This does not mean that life is over for me. On the contrary, I feel very alive, and I wish and hope for the remaining time to achieve even more profound friendship, to say goodbye to all those who love to write something else, to travel, if you have enough strength to reach new levels of understanding and meaning.
This will require boldness, clarity and directness of speech. I have to make clear in my relationship with the world. But I have time and fun (and even something stupid).
I suddenly feel the focus and see the future. No time for anything non-essential. I have to focus on yourself, on my work and on my friends. I will no longer watch the news at night. I will not waste your attention to politics or controversy about global warming. This is not indifference, and lack of affection: I remain deeply concerned about the situation in the Middle East, global warming, rising inequality. But it's no longer my business - these things belong to the future. I admire when I meet talented young people - even those who have made me a biopsy and diagnosed me. I feel that the future - in good hands.
In the last ten years, I still attentive to the death of my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and every death seemed like a cliff, cutting off parts of themselves. Like us, will be no more. But never will be like you. When people die, they will not be replaced. They leave holes that can not be filled, because the fate - and the genetic and neural - every human being is to become a unique individual, to find their way, to live his own life, to die a natural death.
I can not pretend to be fearless. But my main feeling - thanks. I loved and was loved. I was given a lot, and I gave something back. I have read, traveled, I thought and wrote. I have spoken to the world, so as to communicate only writers and readers.
And most importantly, I was an intelligent being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and this in itself was a tremendous privilege and a great adventure.