"There will be no more people like us." Oliver Sacks on life, death and meaning

"There will be no more people like us." Oliver Sacks on life, death and meaning

Categories: Celebrities | Health and Medicine

Oliver Sacks was one of the most famous psychologists of our time. We publish his last column, written six months before his death. Believe me, it's worth reading.

"A month ago, it seemed to me that my health was good, even strong. I'm 81, but I still swim a mile a day. But my luck ran out. A few weeks ago I found out that there are multiple metastases in my liver. Nine years ago, it was discovered that I had a rare eye tumor. Due to the radiotherapy and lasers used to remove the tumor, I eventually went blind in one eye. In my case, the probability that the eye tumor would metastasize was small—but I was unlucky."

"There will be no more people like us." Oliver Sacks on life, death and meaningSource: Ideonomics

"There will be no more people like us." Oliver Sacks on life, death and meaning

I am grateful for nine years of healthy and productive life after that initial diagnosis, but today I am face to face with death. Cancer has consumed a third of my liver, and although its spread can be slowed down, it can no longer be stopped.

I have to figure out how to live my remaining months. I have to live them in the richest, deepest, most productive way. I am inspired by the words of one of my favorite philosophers, David Hume, who, at the age of 65, having learned that he was terminally ill, wrote a short autobiography. It took him only one day in April 1776. He called it "My Life."

"I suffered very little from my illness, and, what is even more curious, despite the severe exhaustion of the body, my mental balance did not leave me for a minute," Hume wrote. "I have retained the same passion for science, the same liveliness in society as before."

"There will be no more people like us." Oliver Sacks on life, death and meaning

I was lucky to have lived more than 80 years, 15 years longer than Hume, and those years were just as rich in terms of work and love. During this time, I have published five books and completed an autobiography (it is longer than a few pages of Hume), which will be published this spring. And I've almost finished a few more books.

"I," Hume continues, "was distinguished by a meek nature, self—control, an open, sociable and cheerful disposition, the ability to get attached, the inability to feed enmity and great moderation in all passions."

Here I differ from Hume. Although I have enjoyed a warm relationship and friendship, I have no real enemies, I cannot say that I am a meek person. On the contrary, I am a rather belligerent person, I am often overcome by bouts of violent enthusiasm and complete immoderation in all my hobbies.

"There will be no more people like us." Oliver Sacks on life, death and meaning

And yet one line from Hume's essay seems to me strikingly true: "It's hard to be less attached to life than I am now."

Over the past few days, I have been able to see my life from a great height, like a landscape, and a sense of the connectedness of all its components has deepened in me. It doesn't mean that life is over for me. On the contrary, I feel extremely alive, and I want and hope to achieve even deeper friendship in the remaining time, to say goodbye to everyone I love, to write something else, to travel, if I have enough strength, to reach new levels of understanding and meaning.

This will require audacity, clarity and directness of speech. I will have to get clarity in my relationship with the world. But I will have time for fun (and even for some stupidity).

"There will be no more people like us." Oliver Sacks on life, death and meaning

I suddenly feel focused and see a perspective. There is no time for anything insignificant. I have to focus on myself, on my work and on my friends. I won't be watching the news in the evenings anymore. I will no longer waste my attention on politics or arguments about global warming.

This is not indifference, but lack of affection: I am still deeply concerned about the situation in the Middle East, global warming, and growing inequality. But it's not my business anymore — these things belong to the future. I am delighted when I meet gifted young people — even those who have done a biopsy and diagnosed me. I feel that the future is in good hands.

In the last ten years, I have been paying more and more attention to the deaths of my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and every death seemed to me a break, cutting off a part of myself. There will be no more people like us. But there will never be people like you. When people die, they can't be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, because the fate — both genetic and neural — of every human being is to become a unique individual, to find his own way, to live his own life, to die his own death.

"There will be no more people like us." Oliver Sacks on life, death and meaning

I can't pretend to be devoid of fear. But my main feeling is gratitude. I loved and was loved. I have been given a lot, and I have given something in return. I read, traveled, thought and wrote. I communicated with the world the way only writers and readers communicate.

And most importantly, I was a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself was a colossal privilege and a huge adventure.

Keywords: Life | Disease | Thoughts | Psychologist | Reflections | Cancer | Death | Emotions

Recent articles

In Spain, a family was arrested for stealing four tons of oranges
In Spain, a family was arrested for stealing four tons of oranges

On January 26, in Seville, the police detained five people suspected of stealing 4 tons of oranges. According to local media ...

In Hong Kong, they rent an apartment with an area of 4 square meters for 21 thousand rubles a month
In Hong Kong, they rent an apartment with an area of 4 square ...

In Hong Kong, one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, a "cozy and comfortable" studio apartment the size of a ...

Places where Rumpelstiltskin's foot has trod
Places where Rumpelstiltskin's foot has trod

German photographer Kilian Schonberger, inspired by the stories of the brothers Grimm, traveled through Central Europe for 12 ...

Related articles

Rubber Face: how Harry Turner, the man with the most elastic skin in the world, lives
Rubber Face: how Harry Turner, the man with the most elastic ...

Gymnasts are able to surprise with flexibility and stretching of the body, and Harry Turner (Garry Turner) from the UK shocks with ...

5 zodiac signs that cheat the most
5 zodiac signs that cheat the most

Entering into a new relationship, everyone certainly wants them to be honest, strong, and healthy in every sense. But this is not ...

Come back to life and love it
Come back to life and love it

The famous German photographer Dirk Gelbrecht invited a Russian girl Nastya Belkovskaya to shoot for the magazine. It would be an ...