This week the neuroscience world has been abuzz with the very sad news that Oliver Sacks, world renowned neurologist and writer, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 81 years.
A number of articles have appeared in the media about his response to this. As a keen observer of life, illness and death, in his writing world, the microscope has now appeared to turn on him and he seems to be not only aware of this, but embracing it.
Writing in the prestigious The New York times Sacks disclosed his condition in an essay. He recognizes the choices he has to "live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can". For him this means disengaging from things that don't matter to him. Like the evening news. He describes the news as "belong[ing] to the future" not to the here and now that is the focus of his life.
He also reports that on reflecting back on his life he feels a connection to the various aspects of his life. He does not feel that his life is over, but rather that he feels "intensely alive" and wants to make the most of the time he has to further deepen his relationships, have the opportunity to say goodbye to loved ones, undertake more writing and even travel if he is able. He even hopes that his experience will enable him to "achieve new levels of understanding and insight".
Recognising time as a precious and finite commodity certainly seems to be a way for Sacks to maximize his life and focus his energies in some new and crucial ways. There's so much we have learned from Sacks through his writings and perspectives and now there seems that he is providing more for all of us to take from the model he is providing for us.