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posted by janrinok on Friday February 20 2015, @11:44AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the sieze-every-day dept.

Oliver Sacks, a professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine and the author of many books, has a beautifully written op-ed in the NYT where he reflects on his own mortality and the fact that at 81 he is faced with terminal cancer and a few months left to live. Some excerpts:

"I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight. It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and travelled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

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  • (Score: 0, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20 2015, @11:51AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20 2015, @11:51AM (#147367)

    He said "intercourse". Twice.

    Heh.

  • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20 2015, @12:21PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20 2015, @12:21PM (#147373)

    ...you live your life like this every single day.
    What a beautiful world it can be.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by tonyPick on Friday February 20 2015, @12:28PM

      by tonyPick (1237) on Friday February 20 2015, @12:28PM (#147374) Homepage Journal

      Or to quote William Shatner - "LIve life like you're gonna die. Because you are."

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20 2015, @10:05PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20 2015, @10:05PM (#147621)

        Instead of Kirk and Picard going back to the launchpad, they could've gone into the time when there was a part of the ship where Picard first discovered the enemy following some type of rescue operation and they could've jumped him there, inside the ship, using ship security if need be. Wasn't Guinen there, too? Wasn't she some type of 'dangerous creature' as Q warned Picard once in the Enterprise's Lounge?

        The whole Kirk death scene wasn't really needed at all. Still, were they to return to that part of time, Kirk could've grabbed a frying pan and together with Picard they could've rode in on horses and trampled him to death. If they can exit The Nexus with their clothing, they could've carried anything, even eggs.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23 2015, @10:32PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23 2015, @10:32PM (#148771)

          All true. (And after the Nexus, how did they *really* know they were on the 'real' Veridian III? Unless all the Nexus was actually real, in which case Kirk should never have felt like it wasn't a real place and shouldn't have worried about leaving because it wasn't "real.") Almost as big plot holes as those in Star Trek V.

          Still fun, though. I finally got around to watching the 'Star Trek Summit' bonus disc in my collection of Trek movies. Shatner says on his death scene they cut out his line of, "Bridge. On the Captain." I'm still smiling at that days later.

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Friday February 20 2015, @12:33PM

      by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Friday February 20 2015, @12:33PM (#147376) Journal

      That kind of enthusiasm for life is very hard to maintain.

      I'm reminded of the end to the Simpsons episode "one fish, two fish, blowfish, blue fish". At the end Homer vows to live each day of his life to the fullest. Cut to a 2-minute scene of him slouching on the sofa in his underwear, eating pork snacks and watching bowling...

    • (Score: 2) by pkrasimirov on Friday February 20 2015, @12:45PM

      by pkrasimirov (3358) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 20 2015, @12:45PM (#147378)

      I know, I know, #YOLO. But that's only if you have a couple of months left. Otherwise it's good to think about the global warming. And perhaps act. Also have some savings in case your dream job suddently go poof for a while. Such stuff.

      • (Score: 2, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20 2015, @01:03PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20 2015, @01:03PM (#147385)

        But that's only if you have a couple of months left.

        On the other side... I mean, what if you have only a couple of months right?

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Gravis on Friday February 20 2015, @02:02PM

    by Gravis (4596) on Friday February 20 2015, @02:02PM (#147398)

    My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced.

    some of the worst people in politics are actually of the same generation. the Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee is 80 years old and thinks climate change is a hoax. the Koch brothers who are subverting democracy as hard as they can: 79 and 81 years old.

    it seems that one's opinion becomes impervious to scientific knowledge and reasoning at around 70.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by CoolHand on Friday February 20 2015, @02:37PM

      by CoolHand (438) on Friday February 20 2015, @02:37PM (#147406) Journal

      some of the worst people in politics are actually of the same generation. the Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee is 80 years old and thinks climate change is a hoax. the Koch brothers who are subverting democracy as hard as they can: 79 and 81 years old.

      Not to mention that is the generation that is most firmly still entrenched in the "drug war" that is causing multiple problems in society..

      --
      Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job-Douglas Adams
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by The Archon V2.0 on Friday February 20 2015, @04:37PM

      by The Archon V2.0 (3887) on Friday February 20 2015, @04:37PM (#147468)

      > some of the worst people in politics are actually of the same generation.

      The next generation doesn't have as much practice at it. Give it time and some of them will be the best at being the worst.

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by nitehawk214 on Friday February 20 2015, @05:31PM

        by nitehawk214 (1304) on Friday February 20 2015, @05:31PM (#147483)

        For a time (when I was younger), I thought, "I will vote for the younger candidate, preferably someone from my generation. They will understand me."

        But as my generation is beginning to take over the previous, somehow they have forgotten what it was like to be young, and are the same racist, lying, bastards as our parents. What the hell happened? I blame it on the people in power never really being "one of the people". There is a ruling class in society. That they are split between Republicans and Democrats is just an illusion.

        I suppose I am as cynical as my father now.

        --
        "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
        • (Score: 2) by fadrian on Friday February 20 2015, @08:25PM

          by fadrian (3194) on Friday February 20 2015, @08:25PM (#147563) Homepage

          As an older person, I'm glad you got it when young. Maybe you're still young enough to do something. Don't be cynical about things you want/need. Be very skeptical (even to the point of cynicism) about things that others say you want/need. Now go do.

          --
          That is all.
          • (Score: 2) by nitehawk214 on Monday February 23 2015, @05:27AM

            by nitehawk214 (1304) on Monday February 23 2015, @05:27AM (#148315)

            Never to old to do something.

            Though I don't expect I will do anything aside from voting and advocating.

            Moderate protesters tend to not be terribly effective. Taking a grand stand for reason doesn't work well either.

            The worst part is, most of the people I know are somewhere in the middle. I still don't understand why politics are so polarizing when most people are right in the middle.

            --
            "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday February 20 2015, @08:58PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 20 2015, @08:58PM (#147580) Journal

          But as my generation is beginning to take over the previous, somehow they have forgotten what it was like to be young, and are the same racist, lying, bastards as our parents. What the hell happened?

          You never were different. Seriously, why should someone be bad solely because they were born in 1955 instead of 1995?

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bzipitidoo on Friday February 20 2015, @06:50PM

      by bzipitidoo (4388) on Friday February 20 2015, @06:50PM (#147511) Journal

      Don't forget Rupert Murdoch.

      I've often wondered if mortality could be an evolutionary advantage. There's a saying "can't teach an old dog new tricks", and when a new situation arises, we may need a new direction the old dogs won't go. The old disproportionately support conservative parties, which are opposed to change no matter how necessary and beneficial, and cling to the status quo so hard that they are not above dirty pool: propaganda, suppression of research, and sending the young to die in pointless wars. The Republicans have been making asses of themselves in recent times. When their thinking hardens, everyone suffers. They can't see that society changes. My Dad still reaches for the telephone book to find services, never thinks to search online, has never used a search engine. He travels to a bank branch to see a teller inside, won't even use the drive-thru. He writes checks to pay his bills. He's used a GUI for over 20 years, and he still doesn't get it, sometimes "losing" windows (which means he accidentally minimized it, or that he covered it with another window, or occasionally that he really did lose it by closing it without meaning to). At least he does use computers and email. My grandmother would not do even that. The one time I got her to try a computer, I found out that she could not type at all, not even two finger typing. I slowed the repeat rate down to the lowest setting, and that still wasn't slow enough for her. She also resented computers for eliminating accountants' jobs.

      One of my CS professors was the sort of old man who was beginning to slip mentally, and compensated by simplifying. New things completely flummoxed him. He could not use a mouse. He was a stickler for obedience to his directions. You did his assignments his way. If you didn't, you could get an F even if you were right. He did grade unfairly in any case, sticking with the first impression he formed of you. If he thought you were a B or a C student, that's the best grade you could get from him no matter how well you really did.

      NewsHour? LOL. Run by old men, using the now dated TV broadcast method to reach their viewers, and despite being on PBS, they're a stalwart of mainstream media. And it shows. Though far better than Fox, they don't get it on many issues, such as copyright. They do not portray a realistic picture of the Middle East, leaving viewers with the impression that most of them are just a bunch of crazy jihadis and suicide bombers. They went with the flow during the financial crisis of 2008, intentionally or not supported the narrative that "stuff happens", ya know? The 2012 debates between Obama and Romney were pretty poor. Didn't. Even. Mention. Global. Warming. No, Comedy Central has done a better job of bringing us the news.

      Sacks at least thinks Global Warming is important even though he feels he should harbor his remaining time for other things.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday February 20 2015, @09:27PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 20 2015, @09:27PM (#147598) Journal

        The old disproportionately support conservative parties, which are opposed to change no matter how necessary and beneficial

        This happens after you've experienced a lot of unnecessary and harmful change. You start losing your gullibility.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 21 2015, @03:37AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 21 2015, @03:37AM (#147679)

          All improvement is change by definition, but not all change is improvement. There lies the problem, too many times the change is useless if not a worsening of the condition, by not really thinking about the consequences as a whole. Humans must start to think beyond the facade.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Nesh on Friday February 20 2015, @02:13PM

    by Nesh (269) on Friday February 20 2015, @02:13PM (#147399)

    It can be liberating, knowing you only have a little time left: it can leave you free to live in the now and focus on getting most out of what time you have left.

    Not everyone has that luxury however. Some worry excessively about people they leave behind.
    I've seen parents of children with Down syndrome stress out in their last days because they worry about what will happen to their child when they are gone.

    • (Score: 1) by VortexCortex on Friday February 20 2015, @07:04PM

      by VortexCortex (4067) on Friday February 20 2015, @07:04PM (#147520)

      It can be liberating, knowing you only have a little time left

      Indeed. When I found out that humans typically don't live beyond a single century and I realized I only had a few decades to achieve all the things I set out to do I was a teenager. I've lived to the fullest as much as I can, don't even watch TV or listen to Radio. I frantically work to complete projects that would take many men to complete in the same time. As I get closer to my death I have to cross off items that I simply won't have time to complete. It will be liberating when I reach the point that no new great works can be started, and must remain content with those I have finished.

      I shall rest thoroughly when I'm dead.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 21 2015, @12:01AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 21 2015, @12:01AM (#147655)

        This. Is not what you can do. But when you can do it.

  • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Friday February 20 2015, @02:37PM

    by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 20 2015, @02:37PM (#147405) Journal

    Having read the comments so far - it would seem that both a YOLO viewpoint and worrying about loved ones, climate change, and saving money, have a place. So the only solution is to seek out that balance that lets us each enjoy our lives to the maximum possible while still doing all the things that are necessary to survive individually, collectively and intellectually.

    I'm going to continue striving to find that balance - as I am sure most of us here are doing also. But I do know that I haven't always, or even often, got that balance right yet.

    --
    It's always my fault...
  • (Score: 0, Troll) by mtrycz on Friday February 20 2015, @03:58PM

    by mtrycz (60) on Friday February 20 2015, @03:58PM (#147451)

    What if caring for others were a big part of living life? Think about it: what are the most important things in your life? Your people will take 7-8 places of the top ten, I bet.

    I don't see a contradiction in living life and "paying attention about global warming".

    I clearly haven't read TFA (we *are* on soylent, afterall) and I'm sorry that mr. Sacks is going to die. But to me, he sounds like a first-world douche.

    --
    In capitalist America, ads view YOU!
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by SecurityGuy on Friday February 20 2015, @05:39PM

      by SecurityGuy (1453) on Friday February 20 2015, @05:39PM (#147486)

      No, not at all. At a certain point, though, you have to let go of solving the world's problems and resign yourself that someone else is going to have to do that. When you have terminal cancer and not a lot of time left, I think it's entirely reasonable to accept that you, personally, are not going to have a significant impact on global warming, curing cancer, or any of the other things we promise ourselves we'll do or be part of when we're young.

      He's not a douche, he's just a guy who realized he's no longer answering the question "What am I going to do with my life?" He's answering "What will I do with tomorrow?"

    • (Score: 2, Touché) by khallow on Friday February 20 2015, @09:57PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 20 2015, @09:57PM (#147613) Journal

      But to me, he sounds like a first-world douche.

      Just because he chooses not to waste time worrying about global warming, a typical first world problem? It's doubtful we'll even learn something in this guy's remaining lifetime that will make it enough of a threat to merit his attention.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Friday February 20 2015, @06:39PM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Friday February 20 2015, @06:39PM (#147505) Homepage Journal

    He is a neurologists; he treats some of the most amazing people. He has also had an amazing life: every Slashbot would enjoy "Uncle Tungsten". I've also read "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat", "The Anthropologist From Mars" and "Musicophilia".

    If you know anyone with brain damage - whether due to stroke, injury, infection or what have you - it is quite likely that their musical abilities are largely unaffected. It's possible that they could recover, at least to some extent, by playing music.

    A while back I was almost knocked over by a young woman in downtown Portland who walked with two canes, that looked like the white and red canes that blind people use, but that were black. When I pointed out that I would have noticed white canes and stepped out of her way, she told me that she could see just fine, but was unable to perceive anything in front of her as being objects.

    --
    Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
    • (Score: 2) by dyingtolive on Friday February 20 2015, @10:25PM

      by dyingtolive (952) on Friday February 20 2015, @10:25PM (#147631)

      That is... something I don't think I can even begin to comprehend what it must be like.

      --
      Don't blame me, I voted for moose wang!