Life is a precious commodity we may only truly appreciate once it is apparent how little we have left to share with others or to use in our own selfish way. This coming to terms with our own or the finality of others has an undeniable way to reshape our perceptions, regrets and the meaning of life.
How different it was when we were children or even in our early 20s or 30s. Life lay ahead with all its wonders and whatever came, we felt we’d handle it with energy and deny it the power to take anything from us. But we were foolish in that regard because there may have been no power we possess that coulg change some things. The span of life is one of them.
Rod Serling, the incredibly talented TV producer/writer of “The Twilight Zone,” had an uncanny way of helping us see through a different lens. To Serling, life was
an incredibly twisted maze where complexity only added to the strength of his screenplays. Of course, there was that inevitable ending where you were dumbstruck. You’d watched and followed the characters and never saw that ending coming. Did you see “A World of His Own?” Interesting and poignant but perhaps not as much as “Time Enough at Last.”
The self-deprecating writer who would go on after his death to be named the writer of one of the three best written TV series by The Writers Guild of America, Serling was taken too soon by cardiac disease. A word master in the early days of TV, he receives attention each year when a 24-hour marathon of the series runs on TV each Fourth of July.
Writers such as Serling portray life as they wish and you wonder if any of it is half-truth, whole truth or total fantasy made up of both of the aforementioned. But one writer, Dr. Oliver Sacks, wrote in a genre little tilled, seemingly, before him and he helped us see the power of insight in the face of what was presented as medical certainty.
His patients were unbelievable in their symptoms and stricken without warning with illness over which they had no power. All of them were truly portrayed as they were in life with a sufficient dash of cover-up to disguise them to us. Confidentiality, after all, is the hallmark of medical care and Sacks honored it. I’m sure you’ve seen “Awakenings.”
Sacks is dying and he has told the world not to have them heap regrets his way or to be mawkish. He wants to finally tell everyone what his life has truly been like, what he had to hide all these years since age 18 (he’s gay) and how tradition now seems to have a place in life after all.
Today’s New York Times carried an Op-Ed piece by Sacks and it was one of his
best. I recommend that you read it, consider the content carefully and think about your own life.
Certainly, Sacks has had a life of fulfillment and wonder and incredible celebrity, but he also wants us to see the man beneath all of it. He accomplished more of this self-revelation today and I suspect he will continue until he passes on. Sacks’ terminal cancer metastasized from his eye cancer years ago. How ironic that someone whose eyes were his most important sense, in a way, should betray him this way.
He would, I’m sure, debate me on that one because he believes his ears are far more important to him and to you and me. Music, you see, is central to Sacks’ life. If you doubt me, see if you can find the PBS show entitled, “Musical Minds,” based on one of Sacks’ books on music and the brain/mind. Or look at his research on music and its effects on us.
Undoubtedly, music has a superior and important role in our lives and it should be utilized for enjoyment and therapy as well. If you’d like to explore this a bit, in
terms of playing a musical instrument, watch this video. Learning to play an instrument, not to step too far aside from my topic here, is an important first step in learning for children. Follow this one up with a bit of Googling on the topic of the Suzuki Method and how it builds character and learning. The violin was Mr. Suzuki’s instrument of choice.
Not everyone is as famous as Dr. Sacks or Mr. Suzuki, but their lives can be just as meaningful to them and those around them. Life is one journey where we do have a degree of influence to decide on the roads to take and the byways to pass up. No need to regret, if you ponder on how these choices did have meaning and led to where you wanted or needed to go.