Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"A Matter of Identity" by Oliver Sacks

“Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually unconsciously, by, though, in us – through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. 

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. 

The world keeps disappearing, losing meaning, vanishing – and he must seek meaning, make meaning, in a desperate way, continually inventing, throwing bridges of meaning over abysses of meaninglessness, the chaos that yawns continually beneath him. 

The presence of others, other people, excite and rattle him, force him into an endless, frenzied, social chatter, a veritable delirium of identity making and seeking, the presence of plants, a quiet garden, the non-human order, making no social or human demands upon him, allow this identity-delirium to relax, to subside; and by their quiet, non-human self-sufficiency and completeness allow him a rare quietness and self-sufficiency of his own, by offering (beneath, or beyond, all merely human identities and relations) a deep wordless communion with Nature itself, and with this restored sense of being in the world, being real.” 

Sacks, Oliver W. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998. Print.

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