Gratitude by Oliver Sacks

Gratitude

A deeply moving testimony and celebration of how to embrace life.In January 2015, Oliver Sacks was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer, and he shared this news in a New York Times essay that inspired readers all over the world: "I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.... Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking anima...

Title:Gratitude
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Edition Language:English

Gratitude Reviews

  • Petra Eggs

    This is a very short book. I had read two of the essays before, this time I got the audio book and listened to them. Sometimes it is a different experience. Just four essays written by Oliver Sacks before he died. All the links are to the essays as they were originally published.

    The first essay, Mercury or

    is a brief meditation on what it will mean to him to be very old, 80.

    The second essay,

    on learning the cancer from his eye has metastised and is now terminal. It

    This is a very short book. I had read two of the essays before, this time I got the audio book and listened to them. Sometimes it is a different experience. Just four essays written by Oliver Sacks before he died. All the links are to the essays as they were originally published.

    The first essay, Mercury or

    is a brief meditation on what it will mean to him to be very old, 80.

    The second essay,

    on learning the cancer from his eye has metastised and is now terminal. It's quite moving.

    The third essay,

    relates his life, and the treatment for his cancer to the elements.

    The fourth essay, though, the last one, is the one that stands out for me. In part because I come from a similar background, in part because my flat in London is quite literally around the corner from Sacks' family home, although by the time I arrived there, it was only a Jewish area in a very small way. It was now an eclectic mix of young professionals, Londoners, Jamaicans and Irish. Still there was a very good bagel shop...

    It is also my favourite because of a quote I have loved for a very long time, it's by Chaim Potok, from his novel

    . The quote is peculiarly apposite as Sacks' cancer started in his eye.

    "Human beings do not live forever, Reuven. We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity. So it may be asked what value is there to a human life. There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to have to suffer so much, if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye?

    I learned a long time ago, Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing; but the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of life is nothing; but the man who lives the span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant. A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life.

    It is hard work to fill one's life with meaning- that, I do not think you understand yet. A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest. I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here."

    The essay

    is a perfect elucidation of that quote by a man who gave life meaning to many despairing people and after a long life well-lived, deserved his eternal rest.

    Alev HaShalom, rest in peace, Oliver.

  • MLE

    A short collection of essays, but one that is beautifully written, and perfectly put together. I really appreciated his thoughts on aging, and on morality. It was heavy, but it didn't feel dark or oppressive either. I liked the glimpse it gave me of the author, his thought process, and his understanding of the world. I haven't read anything by him, but he is one of my sister's favorite authors, and after this I have a deep desire to read more.

    It also inspired me to look up my element year, Krypt

    A short collection of essays, but one that is beautifully written, and perfectly put together. I really appreciated his thoughts on aging, and on morality. It was heavy, but it didn't feel dark or oppressive either. I liked the glimpse it gave me of the author, his thought process, and his understanding of the world. I haven't read anything by him, but he is one of my sister's favorite authors, and after this I have a deep desire to read more.

    It also inspired me to look up my element year, Krypton.

  • Iris P

    Short but profound reflections on life, aging and confronting sickness and the end of your life with dignity and grace.

    In an essay called "Mercury", Sacks reflects:

    Short but profound reflections on life, aging and confronting sickness and the end of your life with dignity and grace.

    In an essay called "Mercury", Sacks reflects:

    was a remarkable human being who chose to live an extraordinary life.

    I feel gratitude today for

    and for the years I've enjoyed on this earth so far.

  • Carol

    A very moving audio. It made me want to hear more...

  • Britany

    Oliver Sacks pens these four essays over the span of a few years at different times during his battle with an eye melanoma that metastasized. Short and poignant, these essays really hit home. I can only imagine the lasting legacy they've created for Dr. Sacks. This book is short at only 45 pages and it is interspersed with pictures. What a way to memorialize a person that has been a resounding voice in the written word.

  • Elyse

    I listened to this audio yesterday while in the woods. (a gift to the world, by Oliver Sacks)

    It felt so unflinchingly honest that it hurt.

    Oliver Sacks was a remarkably accomplished man --His gifts were huge --and his heart even bigger!

    Sad-tender-and so very beautiful!

  • PattyMacDotComma

    5★

    Even if you’ve never read anything by neurologist Oliver Sacks, I bet you’ve seen the famous movie based on his book

    , with Robin Williams as the Sacks character and Robert de Niro as a patient “awakened” from a catatonic state.

    Neurology may have been his professional field, but the man was so much more--a naturalist and philosopher, loved by many. Sacks wrote this tiny “quartet of essays” in the last years of his life, the first,

    , just be

    5★

    Even if you’ve never read anything by neurologist Oliver Sacks, I bet you’ve seen the famous movie based on his book

    , with Robin Williams as the Sacks character and Robert de Niro as a patient “awakened” from a catatonic state.

    Neurology may have been his professional field, but the man was so much more--a naturalist and philosopher, loved by many. Sacks wrote this tiny “quartet of essays” in the last years of his life, the first,

    , just before he’s about to turn 80 and when he seems to have recovered from a melanoma in his eye – a rare type. He is enjoying life and can’t believe he’s arrived at such an advanced age while he still feels like

    .

    Yet he enjoys it, too, being able to take the

    He thinks 80 is a time to explore, free of earlier

    He does continue to explore, but not for long, as he soon gets the diagnosis that his melanoma has spread and his time is limited. He has a chance to appreciate the people in his life, enjoy the adulation of the public who love his work, and the opportunity to write a bit more and travel to Israel for a close cousin’s 100th birthday.

    While in Israel, he finds himself

    He had been born into a large, very religious Jewish family in England but at 18, when his mother was so horrified at his homosexuality, he

    Shortly before his death, he writes

    There is no doubt that the world is glad that A and B and C were not different and that Oliver Sacks became the man he did, a neurologist and philosopher who opened so many minds—those of his patients and those of his readers and admirers.

  • David

    This is a set of four short, but beautiful and profound essays by Oliver Sacks. They are reflections on his life, after learning that he was terminally ill.

    I have read several of his books on neurology, but in this short book I learned about Sacks himself, and his life. I never realized that he was an "elements guy". That is to say, his hobby was learning and collecting elements from the periodic table. And he had a lifelong love for the physical sciences, beyond his career in the biological sc

    This is a set of four short, but beautiful and profound essays by Oliver Sacks. They are reflections on his life, after learning that he was terminally ill.

    I have read several of his books on neurology, but in this short book I learned about Sacks himself, and his life. I never realized that he was an "elements guy". That is to say, his hobby was learning and collecting elements from the periodic table. And he had a lifelong love for the physical sciences, beyond his career in the biological sciences.

    What is most impressive is Sacks' positive attitude, his gentle style, and his tolerance for people with beliefs unlike his own. I highly recommend this book for everyone.

  • Brendon Schrodinger

    David read this recently and gave it a great big thumbs up, and it inspired me to pick it up also. It's a very small book and came cheap as an ebook, and I finished it easily one night before bed. It consists of four essays that Oliver wrote before his death. From just before his terminal diagnosis to a couple of months before his death.

    Oliver writes logically and emotionally about a life well-lived. He has a certain profound wisdom that comes from a life with many experiences. And there is no

    David read this recently and gave it a great big thumbs up, and it inspired me to pick it up also. It's a very small book and came cheap as an ebook, and I finished it easily one night before bed. It consists of four essays that Oliver wrote before his death. From just before his terminal diagnosis to a couple of months before his death.

    Oliver writes logically and emotionally about a life well-lived. He has a certain profound wisdom that comes from a life with many experiences. And there is no bullshit here. There is no agenda to his writing. He is thankful for the life he has led.

    And we're thankful too.

    This being only the third book of his I have read, I conclude that I need to read a lot more Oliver Sacks.

  • Tony

    It has been my lot to stand outside stores while family shops. It could be Venice or La Jolla or just back home. Doesn't matter. Leather coats are modeled; children's designer socks are awwwwwwwed at; I stand outside, watching the passing parade of life.

    But on a recent trip to Seattle I was spared the awkward shuffling of stance by a daughter who finally felt some pity. Or maybe she just worried that I would wander off, being in my dotage years, and it would take too long to recover me. Oh, the

    It has been my lot to stand outside stores while family shops. It could be Venice or La Jolla or just back home. Doesn't matter. Leather coats are modeled; children's designer socks are awwwwwwwed at; I stand outside, watching the passing parade of life.

    But on a recent trip to Seattle I was spared the awkward shuffling of stance by a daughter who finally felt some pity. Or maybe she just worried that I would wander off, being in my dotage years, and it would take too long to recover me. Oh, they still went shopping; but, I was told, there was a bookstore nearby. Let me know what you think, she said.

    Well, there was indeed a bookstore, if you don't mind what you say. For not far from The Land of Nod was (drum roll, please): AmazonBooks.

    I know I know I know I know. But in I went. It was ..... It was clean. Staff was wearing sensible shoes. Books were where they were supposed to be and in alphabetical order. There was even a Goodreads Section, but filled with popularity, not what MY Goodreads friends read. It was Barnes & Noble Lite. But I can spend an hour even in a bad bookstore.

    So I perused. And there, neatly stacked, was 'Gratitude' by Oliver Sacks, which has received some very nice reviews. I picked it up. Just a little thing. I thumbed through the pages of big print and wide margins. If you subtracted the blank pages, the author pictures and whatever introduction and afterword there was, you had a mere 38 pages. Four posthumous essays. At $17 (plus the highest sales tax in the English-speaking world) that would amount to a dollar for two very sparse pages.

    I looked around. Just a few well-scrubbed Seattle-ites in hiking shoes and backpacks looking rapturous in the self-help section. A plan formed in my decrepit mind. Although not a hater, nor a protester, I thought I would make my own

    statement. I'd read the book right then and there.

    And so I did. If a bit furtively.

    Oliver Sacks wrote these bits when he learned he had terminal cancer. He wrote that he viewed the years of his life like the elements of the periodic table. He was Mercury when he learned of his illness and Lead when he died. He wished he could live to see (be) Bismuth, a cool name for an element, he thought. He wrote of being Jewish, and then not being Jewish enough. He wrote of being gay, how his father told him what was becoming obvious, and how his mother called him an abomination.

    This was poignant and sweet, and slight. One wonders at the need, Sacks having published his memoirs already.

    But Sacks was already gone when some publishing company or estate hurried this out. $17. It did not take me 17 minutes to read it.

    Some may turn in disgust that I even entered the store. Yet I finished a book, a dying man's kind thoughts at sunset, while others shopped. Sacks was thankful at the end, for his friends and his journey. And I too was thankful, thankful that I didn't have to stand on a sidewalk, thankful that some conglomerate would not get my $17. To them, the Amazon gods, I express my GRATITUDE.


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