Quotes by Oliver Sacks

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We have five senses in which we glory and which we recognize and celebrate, senses that constitute the sensible world for us. But there are other senses - secret senses, sixth senses, if you will - equally vital, but unrecognized, and unlauded ... unconscious, automatic. more...

Nature gropes and blunders and performs the crudest acts. There is no steady advance upward. There is no design. more...

We have, each of us, a life story, whose continuity, whose sense, is our lives. more...

A disease is never a mere loss or excess. There is always a reaction on the part of the organism or individual to restore, replace or compensate for and to preserve its identity, however strange the means may be. more...

Scheele, it was said, never forgot anything if it had to do with chemistry. He never forgot the look, the feel, the smell of a substance, or the way it was transformed in chemical reactions, never forgot anything he read, or was told, about the phenomena of chemistry. He seemed indifferent, or inattentive, to most things else, being wholly dedicated to his single passion, chemistry. It was this pure and passionate absorption in phenomena-noticing everything, forgetting nothing-that constituted Scheele's special strength. more...

there are other senses - secret senses, sixth senses, if you will - equally vital, but unrecognized, and unlauded. more...

With any hallucinations, if you can do functional brain imagery while theyre going on, you will find that the parts of the brain usually involved in seeing or hearing - in perception - have become super active by themselves. And this is an autonomous activity; this does not happen with imagination. more...

Some people with Tourette's have flinging tics- sudden, seemingly motiveless urges or compulsions to throw objects..... (I see somewhat similar flinging behaviors- though not tics- in my two year old godson, now in a stage of primal antinomianism and anarchy) more...

In general, people are afraid to acknowledge hallucinations because they immediately see them as a sign of something awful happening to the brain, whereas in most cases theyre not. more...

Studies by Andrew Newberg and others have shown that long-term practice of meditation produces significant alterations in cerebral blood flow in parts of the brain related to attention, emotion, and some autonomic functions. more...

Thus the feeling I sometimes have - which all of us who work closely with aphasiacs have - that one cannot lie to an aphasiac. He cannot grasp your words, and cannot be deceived by them; but what he grasps he grasps with infallible precision, namely the expression that goes with the words, the total, spontaneous, involuntary expressiveness which can never be simulated or faked, as words alone can, too easily. more...

I feel I should be trying to complete my life, whatever completing a life means. more...

Very young children love and demand stories, and can understand complex matters presented as stories, when their powers of comprehending general concepts, paradigms, are almost nonexistent. more...

There are, of course, inherent tendencies to repetition in music itself. Our poetry, our ballads, our songs are full of repetition; nursery rhymes and the little chants and songs we use to teach young children have choruses and refrains. We are attracted to repetition, even as adults; we want the stimulus and the reward again and again, and in music we get it. Perhaps, therefore, we should not be surprised, should not complain if the balance sometimes shifts too far and our musical sensitivity becomes a vulnerability. more...

Given her deafness, the auditory part of the brain, deprived of its usual input, had started to generate a spontaneous activity of its own, and this took the form of musical hallucinations, mostly musical memories from her earlier life. The brain needed to stay incessantly active, and if it was not getting its usual stimulation..., it would create its own stimulation in the form of hallucinations. more...

The power of music, whether joyous or cathartic must steal on one unawares, come spontaneously as a blessing or a grace- more...

People will make a life in their own terms, whether they are deaf or colorblind or autistic or whatever. And their world will be quite as rich and interesting and full as our world. more...

There is certainly a universal and unconscious propensity to impose a rhythm even when one hears a series of identical sounds at constant intervals... We tend to hear the sound of a digital clock, for example, as "tick-tock, tick-tock" - even though it is actually "tick tick, tick tick. more...

Memory is dialogic and arises not only from direct experience but from the intercourse of many minds. more...

It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. more...

We speak not only to tell other people what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think. Speech is a part of thought. more...

If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self-himself-he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it. more...

Astounded-and indifferent-for he was a man who, in effect, had no 'day before'. more...

And so was Luria, whose words now came back to me: 'A man does not consist of memory alone. He has feeling, will, sensibility, moral being ... It is here ... you may touch him, and see a profound change.' Memory, mental activity, mind alone, could not hold him; but moral attention and action could hold him completely. more...

But the saddest difference between them was that Zazetsky, as Luria said, 'fought to regain his lost faculties with the indomitable tenacity of the damned,' whereas Dr P. was not fighting, did not know what was lost. But who was more tragic, or who was more damned - the man who knew it, or the man who did not? more...

Dangerously well'- what an irony is this: it expresses precisely the doubleness, the paradox, of feeling 'too well more...

Music evokes emotion and emotion can bring it's memory. more...

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. more...

A profound intriguing and compelling guide to the intricacies of the human brain. more...

I think the brain is a dynamic system in which some parts control or suppress other parts. And if perhaps one has damage in one of the controlling or suppressing areas, then you may have the emergence or eruption of something, whether it is a seizure, a criminal trait - - or even a sudden musical passion. more...

There is no one part of the brain which recognizes or responds emotionally to music. Instead, there are many different parts responding to different aspects of music: to pitch, to frequency, to timbre, to tonal intervals, to consonance, to dissonance, to rhythm, to melodic contour, to harmony. more...

The same areas which are active in listening to music are also active when you imagine music, and this includes the motor areas, too. That explains why earlier, even though I was only thinking of the mazurka, I was thinking in terms of movement. more...

I think there is no culture in which music is not very important and central. That's why I think of us as a sort of musical species. more...

If a man with a dog sits quietly enjoying music and smiling, his dog might sit down beside him and smile, too. But who knows whether the dog is having a comparable experience or whether the dog is simply happy that his master is happy. more...

My impression is that a sense of rhythm, which has no analog in language, is unique and that its correlation with movement is unique to human beings. Why else would children start to dance when they're two or three? Chimpanzees don't dance. more...

I suspect that music has qualities both of speech and writing - partly built in, partly individually constructed - and this goes on all through one's life. more...

The power of music and the plasticity of the brain go together very strikingly, especially in young people. more...

Music originally had a social function. You were in church, in a concert hall, a marching band; you were dancing. I'm concerned that music could be too separated from its roots and just become a pleasure-giving experience, like a drug. more...

I think there are dozens or hundreds of different forms of creativity. Pondering science and math problems for years is different from improvising jazz. Something which seems to me remarkable is how unconscious the creative process is. You encounter a problem, but can't solve it. more...

It really is a very odd business that all of us, to varying degrees, have music in our heads. more...

When I was five, I am told, and asked what my favorite things in the world were, I answered, smoked salmon and Bach. more...

I regard music therapy as a tool of great power in many neurological disorders - Parkinson's and Alzheimer's - because of its unique capacity to organize or reorganize cerebral function when it has been damaged. more...

About 10 percent of the hearing impaired get musical hallucinations, and about 10 percent of the visually impaired get visual hallucinations. more...

Psychotic hallucinations, whether they are visual or vocal, they address you. They accuse you. They seduce you. They humiliate you. They jeer at you. You interact with them. more...

I was fascinated that one could have such perceptual changes, and also that they went with a certain feeling of significance, an almost numinous feeling. I'm strongly atheist by disposition, but nonetheless when this happened, I couldn't help thinking, 'That must be what the hand of God is like.' more...

If migraine patients have a common and legitimate second complaint besides their migraines, it is that they have not been listened to by physicians. Looked at, investigated, drugged, charged, but not listened to. more...

There is only one cardinal rule: One must always listen to the patient. more...

If we wish to know about a man, we ask 'what is his story-his real, inmost story?'-for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us-through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives-we are each of us unique. more...

he wanted to do, to be, to feel- and could not; he wanted sense, he wanted purpose- in Freud's words, 'Work and Love'. more...

Creativity...involves the power to originate, to break away from the existing ways of looking at things, to move freely in the realm of the imagination, to create and recreate worlds fully in one's mind-while supervising all this with a critical inner eye. more...

Music is...a fundamental way of expressing our humanity - and it is often our best medicine. more...

The past which is not recoverable in any other way is embedded, as if in amber, in the music, and people can regain a sense of identity.. more...

In terms of brain development, musical performance is every bit as important educationally as reading or writing. more...

Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion. It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can. It can get us dancing to its beat. But the power of music goes much, much further. Indeed, music occupies more areas of our brain than language does-humans are a musical species. more...

Much more of the brain is devoted to movement than to language. Language is only a little thing sitting on top of this huge ocean of movement. more...

Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. It has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation. more...

At 11, I could say 'I am sodium' (Element 11), and now at 79, I am gold. more...

My religion is nature. That's what arouses those feelings of wonder and mysticism and gratitude in me. more...

Language, that most human invention, can enable what, in principle, should not be possible. It can allow all of us, even the congenitally blind, to see with another person's eyes. more...

Astounded-and indifferent-for he was a man who, in effect, had no "day before". more...

And so was Luria, whose words now came back to me: "A man does not consist of memory alone. He has feeling, will, sensibility, moral being ... It is here ... you may touch him, and see a profound change." Memory, mental activity, mind alone, could not hold him; but moral attention and action could hold him completely. more...

Dangerously well"- what an irony is this: it expresses precisely the doubleness, the paradox, of feeling "too well more...

Waking consciousness is dreaming - but dreaming constrained by external reality more...

My religion is nature. That's what arouses those feelings of wonder and mysticism and gratitude in me. more...

Music is part of being human. more...

In examining disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy and physiology and biology. In examining the person with disease, we gain wisdom about life. more...

Darwin speculated that "music tones and rhythms were used by our half-human ancestors, during the season of courtship, when animals of all kinds are excited not only by love, but by strong passions of jealousy, rivalry, and triumph" and that speech arose, secondarily, from this primal music. more...

I think hallucinations need to be discussed. There are all sorts of hallucinations, and then many sorts which are okay, like the ones I think which most of us have in bed at night before we fall asleep, when we can see all sorts of patterns or faces and scenes. more...

I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it is almost over. more...

With any hallucinations, if you can do functional brain imagery while they're going on, you will find that the parts of the brain usually involved in seeing or hearing - in perception - have become super active by themselves. And this is an autonomous activity; this does not happen with imagination. more...

Elements and birthdays have been intertwined for me since boyhood, when I learned about atomic numbers. more...

I feel I should be trying to complete my life, whatever 'completing a life' means. more...

In general, people are afraid to acknowledge hallucinations because they immediately see them as a sign of something awful happening to the brain, whereas in most cases they're not. more...

I was always the youngest boy in my class at high school. I have retained this feeling of being the youngest, even though now I am almost the oldest person I know. more...

Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination. more...

Creativity involves the depth of a mind, and many, many depths of unconsciousness. more...

I have often seen quite demented patients recognize and respond vividly to paintings and delight in the act of painting at a time when they are scarcely responsive, disoriented, and out of it. more...

One might say that science itself, and civilization and art, are all about different orderings of the world - to contain it, and to make it in some sense intelligible, communicable. And bearable. more...

Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. more...

Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears - it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. more...

... the body, normally, is never in question: our bodies are beyond question, or perhaps beneath question - they are simply, unquestionably, there. This unquestionability of the body, is, for Wittgenstein, the start and basis of all knowledge and certainty. more...

For 'wellness', naturally, is no cause for complaint - people relish it, they enjoy it, they are at the furthest pole from complaint. People complain of feeling ill - not well ... Thus, though a patient will scarcely complain of being 'very well', they may become suspicious if they feel 'too well'. more...

Enhancement not only allows the possibilities of a healthy fullness and exuberance, but of a rather ominous extravagance, aberration, monstrosity ... This danger is built into the very nature of growth and life. Growth can become over-growth, life 'hyper-life' ... The paradox of an illness which can present as wellness - as a wonderful feeling of health and well-being, and only later reveal its malignant potentials - is one of the chimaeras, tricks and ironies of nature. more...

The power of music to integrate and cure. . . is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest nonchemical medication. more...

If we have youth, beauty, blessed gifts, strength, if we find fame, fortune, favor, fulfillment, it is easy to be nice, to turn a warm heart to the world. more...

There is among doctors, in acute hospitals at least, a presumption of stupidity in their patients. more...

It is easy to recollect the good things of life, the times when one's heart rejoices and expands, when everything is enfolded in kindness and love; it is easy to recollect the fineness of life-how noble one was, how generous one felt, what courage one showed in the face of adversity. more...

First thing about being a patient-you have to learn patience. more...

Muscular dystrophy ... was never seen until Duchenne described it in the 1850s. By 1860, after his original description, many hundreds of cases had been recognised and described, so much so that Charcot said: 'How is it that a disease so common, so widespread, and so recognisable at a glance - a disease which has doubtless always existed - how is it that it is recognised only now? Why did we need M. Duchenne to open our eyes?' more...

The miracle is that, in most cases, he succeeds - for the powers of survival, of the will to survive, and to survive as a unique inalienable individual, are absolutely, the strongest in our being: stronger than any impulses, stronger than disease. more...

We see with the eyes, but we see with the brain as well. And seeing with the brain is often called imagination. more...

The brain is more than an assemblage of autonomous modules, each crucial for a specific mental function. Every one of these functionally specialized areas must interact with dozens or hundreds of others, their total integration creating something like a vastly complicated orchestra with thousands of instruments, an orchestra that conducts itself, with an ever-changing score and repertoire. more...

Language, that most human invention, can enable what, in principle, should not be possible. It can allow all of us, even the congenitally blind, to see with another person's eyes. more...

Fascinating, Doidge's book is a remarkable and hopeful portrait of the endless adaptability of the human brain. more...

I had never thought about what it might mean to be deaf, to be deprived of language, or to have a remarkable language (and community and culture) of one's own. Up to this point, I had mostly thought and written about the problems of individuals-here I was to encounter an entire community. more...

I cannot pretend i am not without fear... more...

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. more...

I am now face to face with dying. But I am not finished with living. more...

I rejoice when I meet gifted young people... I feel the future is in good hands. more...

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. more...

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. more...

I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can more...

Music has a bonding power, it's primal social cement more...

To be ourselves we must have ourselves - possess, if need be re-possess, our life-stories. We must "recollect" ourselves, recollect the inner drama, the narrative, of ourselves. A man needs such a narrative, a continuous inner narrative, to maintain his identity, his self. more...

I had never thought about what it might mean to be deaf, to be deprived of language, or to have a remarkable language (and community and culture) of one's own. Up to this point, I had mostly thought and written about the problems of individuals-here I was to encounter an entire community. more...

Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives - we are each of us unique. more...

I cannot pretend i am not without fear... more...

Sign language is the equal of speech, lending itself equally to the rigorous and the poetic, to philosophical analysis or to making love. more...

My own first love was biology. I spent a great part of my adolescence in the Natural History museum in London (and I still go to the Botanic Garden almost every day, and to the Zoo every Monday). The sense of diversity of the wonder of innumerable forms of life has always thrilled me beyond anything else. more...

Hydrogen selenide, I decided, was perhaps the worst smell in the world. But hydrogen telluride came close, was also a smell from hell. An up-to-date hell, I decided, would have not just rivers of fiery brimstone, but lakes of boiling selenium and tellurium, too. more...

And I often dream of chemistry at night, dreams that conflate the past and the present, the grid of the periodic table transformed to the grid of Manhattan. [...] Sometimes, too, I dream of the indecipherable language of tin (a confused memory, perhaps, of its plaintive "cry"). But my favorite dream is of going to the opera (I am Hafnium), sharing a box at the Met with the other heavy transition metals my old and valued friends Tantalum, Rhenium, Osmium, Iridium, Platinum, Gold, and Tungsten. more...

Dr. Kertesz mentioned to me a case known to him of a farmer who had developed prosopagnosia and in consequence could no longer distinguish (the faces of) his cows, and of another such patient, an attendant in a Natural History Museum, who mistook his own reflection for the diorama of an ape more...

Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears - it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more - it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity. more...

Eccentricity is like having an accent. It's what "other" people have. more...

I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions. more...

I had never thought about what it might mean to be deaf, to be deprived of language, or to have a remarkable language (and community and culture) of one's own. Up to this point, I had mostly thought and written about the problems of individuals-here I was to encounter an entire community. more...

To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see over-all patterns in our lives. We need hope, the sense of a future; the freedom to get beyond ourselves...in states of mind that allow us to rise above our immediate surroundings and see the beauty and value of the world we live in. more...

The power of music, narrative and drama is of the greatest practical and theoretical importance. ... We see how the retarded, unable to perform fairly simple tasks involving perhaps four or five movements or procedures in sequence, can do these perfectly if they work to music. more...

I think there's probably always been visions and voices, and these were variously ascribed to the divine or demonic or the muses. I think many poets still feel they depend on an inner voice, or a voice which tells them what to do. more...

We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust's jars of preserves in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and recategorized with every act of recollection. more...

We have five senses in which we glory and which we recognize and celebrate, senses that constitute the sensible world for us. But there are other senses - secret senses, sixth senses, if you will - equally vital, but unrecognized, and unlauded. more...

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. more...

For many - job-ridden, family-ridden, chronically worried and anxious - it was the first real leisure, the first vacation they [convalescents] had ever had - the first time they had ever had time to think - or feel. more...

opened the door - what a freedom was this, for in the hospital there was no liberty to come and go - and stood, for a minute, in the soft air, savoring its fineness and the sweet smell of woods, and seeing in the distance the nightglow of London, city of cities, my mother. more...

It is easy to recollect the good things of life, the times when one's heart rejoices and expands, when everything is enfolded in kindness and love; it is easy to recollect the fineness of life - how noble one was, how generous one felt, what courage one showed in the face of adversity. more...

Who cared if there was really any Being to pray to? What mattered was the sense of giving thanks and praise, the feeling of a humble and grateful heart. more...

First thing about being a patient - you have to learn patience. more...

I was set apart, we were set apart, we patients in white nightgowns, and avoided clearly, though unconsciously, like lepers. more...

Recovery was not to be seen as a smooth slope, but as a series of radical steps, each inconceivable, impossible, from the step below. more...

Idly, but not idle - for in leisure there is neither idleness nor haste - I watched the slow wreathing of smoke, into the still air, from my pipe. more...

It seems that the brain always has to be active, and if the auditory parts of the brain are not getting sufficient input, then they may start to create hallucinatory sounds on their own. Although it is curious that they do not usually create noises or voices; they create music. more...

The rhythm of music is very, very important for people with Parkinson's. But it's also very important with other sorts of patients, such as patients with Tourette's syndrome. Music helps them bring their impulses and tics under control. There is even a whole percussion orchestra made up exclusively of Tourette's patients. more...

Even when other powers have been lost and people may not even be able to understand language, they will nearly always recognize and respond to familiar tunes. And not only that. The tunes may carry them back and may give them memory of scenes and emotions otherwise unavailable for them. more...

Although I think it is wonderful to have the whole world of music available in something that small and to have it conveyed with such fidelity almost straight into the brain, I think the technology is also a danger. more...

At 11, I could say "I am sodium" (Element 11), and now at 79, I am gold. more...


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