I had never heard of Marcelo Gleiser until a few weeks ago when a friend recommended his book The Island of Knowledge-The Limits of Science and Meaning. “It’s right up your alley,” she said, and she was correct.
As circumstance would have it, I came across his name again a few days later when I read his response and tribute on NPR’s 13.7 Cosmos & Culture to one of my most favorite people Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Turned Life Into Magic. I was stunned earlier when I read Oliver’s op-ed piece in the New York Times. He is dying from cancer of the liver. This is a man who gave life to so many people upon whom the world had turned its back. He was a man I learned of from a movie before ever reading his books. In his essay he talked about how he planned to live his remaining time on this earth. He wrote:
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…This is not indifference but detachment. […]
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.
I never met Oliver Sacks. I know him only through the stories he wrote in Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Altered States, and his essays on hallucinatory drugs. I am one of the readers with whom he shared that “special intercourse.” He not only touched my soul, he opened it. I learned about compassion for my fellow human beings regardless of their physical and/or mental differences from Oliver Sacks. I learned we are all different and to accept what is uniquely different in each of us.
It is from his stories I learned about him, a gifted, intelligent, caring, and heart centered individual. He is one of those rare individuals I would like to sit down and talk with over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. His friend Marcelo summed up his many attributes best when he referred to Oliver Sacks as “A Soul-Reader.”
Thank you Marcelo for your beautiful tribute to I man I know you love. Thank you Oliver Sacks for the life you gave to so many and for teaching me compassion. A soul reader is the best human being of us all.