Monday, July 27, 2015

“On the Move: A Life” by Oliver Sacks – The Master of All Trades

On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks-book cover
We grow up in this world and try to focus our efforts on some specific domain, hopefully mastering it as time comes along. There are some anomalies out there, outliers who seem to have been born with exceptional talents, with the potential to become masters at whatever they touch... and Oliver Sacks is one of those. As a man who managed to give equal focus to his physical and cerebral passions, Sacks became known for both his daring lifestyle and contributions to modern medicine. Recently diagnosed with terminal-stage cancer, Sacks has decided to give yet another source of insight into his life through his autobiography On the Move: A Life.

In this autobiography, Sacks places the greater deal of his attention on the earlier stages of his life, when he was obsessed with motorcycles and speed, when he moved to California and ended up experimenting with a whole array of different drugs, and when he began contributing to science and medicine through his discoveries in the early 1960s as a young neurologist. Naturally, he traces the path he walked to the present day, but the spotlight is placed on the earlier years of his existence.

Sacks has developed a very light and humorous writing style, one that he uses very effectively to tackle the more sensitive issues that have plagued him throughout his life, the ones he really felt like had to get out in the open. On top of learning about what drives him and what led him to walk down the career path he chose, we get to see the many struggles he had to face while getting to the top of the mountain where he stands now. Amongst the many things he had to face there are false accusations of him having inappropriate relations with his patients which caused him to stay celibate for over thirty-five years, the ostracization he was subjected to on the basis of his homosexuality, drug abuse, and slight from many of his peers, just to name a few.

Perhaps more than anything, this specific autobiography is about a man who defied all odds with the power of his own character and managed to make his way past at every single hurdle the world threw in his face. For him to maintain the healthy and happy attitude after all the ordeals he's been through is in itself a testament to the ultimate capabilities and resilience of the human spirit.  And not only that, he managed to continuously make breakthroughs in medical science, yielding unprecedented knowledge on topics such as memory loss, profound sensory limitations and divergent modes of mental processing.

All in all, On the Move: A Life is certainly a very interesting review of a rare and unique person who managed to bring together the two polar-opposite, that of a motorcycling, drug-taking rebel and that of a helpful medical professional. A man of progress and paradoxes, Oliver Sacks is definitely someone who deserves to have their story read by others.

Oliver Sacks (July 9, 1933 - August 30, 2015)

Oliver Sacks (July 9, 1933 - August 30, 2015)

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Oliver Sacks is a writer, neurologist and Professor of Neurology at the New York University School of Medicine hailing from Great Britain. He wrote a number of books on the subject of neurology and then moved on towards novels, some of the more famous ones including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and The Mind's Eye.

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