Friday, October 14, 2011
Book Review: The Mind's Eye
I discovered the excellent writing of neurologist Oliver Sacks, when I happened upon his book, Musicophilia, a fascinating discourse on the brain's interaction with music. With an Oliver Sacks book, you get both intellectual stimulation, as well as wonderfully interesting case histories. The Mind's Eye was every bit as engaging as Musicophilia.
In The Mind's Eye, Dr. Sacks looks at the brain's connection to the use of our various senses. The book is chock full of interesting case studies of individuals who lose various assumed abilities: the ability to speak, read, recognize faces, see three-dimensionally, or just see at all. You will come away with a renewed respect for the many things your brain enables you to do.
The stories were my favorite part of this discourse (although the nitty-gritty descriptions of how the brain works were excellent, just a bit harder to follow when listening in audio form). He tells the story of a concert pianist who one day lost the ability to read words or music, a neurologist who suddenly acquires stereoscopic vision after five decades of an inability to see three-dimensionally, a novelist who loses the ability to read after experiencing a stroke, and Oliver Sacks' own story of dealing with vision loss after ocular cancer.
After listening, I decided to check out the hard-cover form of the book, so that I could glean some titles for further reading. He mentioned Susan Barry's Fixing my Gaze: A Scientist's Journey into Seeing in Three Dimensions, Frank Brady's A Singular View: The Art of Seeing with One Eye, Howard Engel's The Man Who Forgot How to Read, John Hull's Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness, Heather Sellers' You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know, Sabriye Tenberken's My Path Leads to Tibet, and Zoltan Torey's Out of Darkness. Each of these books sounded interesting in their own right.
My final impression is, again, of endless gratitude to God for the incredible precision in his creation of our human body in the way our brain works with our senses to allow us to enjoy things like three dimensional vision, reading, recognizing our loved ones, and even overcoming the losses of certain senses with the increase of others. Every journey might be different, but every journey is of great value.