It was from Dr. Sacks that I first learned about the magical, powerful, emotional and complex impact that music can have on our brains – that music is pre-lingual, that it can reach and stimulate areas of feeling and communication in people with all sorts of physical and psychological conditions, all of this chronicled in his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.
And it was Dr. Sacks who inspired me, because of the way in which music can reach into the inner sanctum of our souls, our spirits, our memories, to become involved in the effort to educate home caregivers about the uses of Therapeutic Music Listening in the care of men and women with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
Once upon a long time ago, Dr. Sacks was considered more than a little bit of an outlier, scientifically snooping around on the edges of music therapy, instinctually and observationally knowing that music can have an impact on people who are particularly connected to its sounds, rhythms and lyrics, all of which inspired him to co-found, with Music Therapist Concetta Tomaino, The Institute for Music and Neurological Function at Beth Abraham Health Services Center in the Bronx, where music therapists help people in stages of recovery from illnesses as varied as traumatic brain injuries to strokes…to dementia.
Throughout it all what has struck me about Sacks’ work as a physician and scientist is his enormous empathy and love for his patients, essentially his respect for any person in the position of being a patient. This empathy is at the core of his writing and I personally believe it underscores his many discoveries – about healing, about the human brain, about our neurological and psychological systems…about our essential humanity. Once an outlier but no longer, now an esteemed physician and scientist.
But now Dr. Sacks is (once again) a patient himself, having been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer, and he writes, in the attached essay, of his experiences – as a man, a physician, a patient…a human being – and how they have changed, impacted, altered and blessed him.
It is a short, moving and thought-provoking read, with which to end the week and begin a weekend:
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 traveled 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. – Dr. Oliver Sacks, The NY Times
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