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Finding and Maintaining One’s Inner Narrative

The following are notes and stories taken from the book that I found relevant to the ‘inner narrative’ that Dr. Sacks touches on. Hopefully these anecdotes will also come in handy for my thesis. Enjoy!

“You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all… Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing…” – Luis Buñuel

Buñuel’s statement is contradicted by Aleksandr Luria, as pointed out by Dr. Sacks.

“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.’ – Aleksandr Luria

Mr. Thompson, a Korsakov’s patient, would go into a “narrational frenzy… [composed of] ceaseless tales, his confabulations, his mythomania” (Sacks, 111) in order to bridge the memory chasms that were destroying his inner world.

Jimmie, another Korsakov’s patient, was lost in extensional ‘spatial’ time. Unlike Mr. Thompson, Jimmie’s memories had been “erased back to 1945—roughly—and stopped.” (Sacks, 33) Even though he was lost, there were moments for Jimmie where things held together. According to Dr. Sacks, music and art allowed Jimmie to go from one moment to another.

But if he was held in emotional and spiritual attention—in the contemplation of nature or art, in listening to music, in taking part in the Mass in chapel—the attention, its ‘mood’, its quietude, would persist for a while, and there would be in him a pensiveness and peace we rarely, if ever, saw during the rest of his life at the Home. (Sacks, 37)

Ray, 24 years old, had suffered from Tourettes.

Had he not been a weekend jazz drummer of real virtuosity, famous for his sudden and wild extemporations, which would arise from a tic or a compulsive hitting of a drum and would instantly be made the nucleus of a wild and wonderful improvisation, so that the ‘sudden intruder’ would be turned to a brilliant advantage. (Sacks, 97)

Even though this didn’t quite resolve Ray’s tics, it allowed him to let go in public. The only times that he was found to be tic-free was “in post-coital quiescence or in sleep; or when he swam or sang or worked, evenly and rhythmically, and found a ‘kinetic melody’, a play, which was tension-free, tic-free and free.” (Sacks, 97)

Dr. P, the man who actually mistook his wife for a hat, discerned things only by their features. Dr. P, an artist and musician, performed everyday tasks such as eating and dressing, by singing songs.

Hungrily, hummingly, Dr. P started on the cakes. Swiftly, fluently. unthinkingly, melodiously, he pulled the plates towards him and took this and that in a great gurgling stream, an edible song of food, until, suddenly, there came an interruption: a loud peremptory rat-tat-tat at the door. (Sacks, 16)

After this loud banging on the door, Dr. P ceased to function. His inner narrative, which was held together by his music, his humming, was interrupted.

One of the last patients that Dr. Sacks talks about in the book is Rebecca, a 19 year old, who was considered “clumsy and ill-coordinated in all her movements—a ‘klutz’, one report said, a ‘motor moron’ another (although when she danced, all her clumsiness disappeared).” (Sacks, 178) Rebecca was fond of stories, poetry, and nature and when Dr. Sacks met up with her  outside of the clinic on a beautiful spring day, she seemed composed, free from the clumsiness that plagued her when she was inside the clinic.

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  • 11 Jul 2010

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