My little brother had a rough time in kindergarten. His color by numbers were always weird and wrong. And then they were fine. It turns out he has a red-green deficiency – his is partly color-blind. He did his color by numbers as he saw them until he learned to read the names on the labels. For him, the lawn is orange and any other shade would be wrong.
This was one of my first tastes of perspective, and I know I’ve mentioned the story in this blog before. I wanted to see the world through his eyes and understand the differences in the view.
Shortly after we started dating, my husband bought me An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks. It did not take long for me to become hooked on his narratives – the perspective he provided into the lives of people whose brains worked differently from my own.
Later,The Island of the Colorblind dealt with some of those first questions. I found the discussion of artwork by artists who see only black, white, and shades of gray – and the details within it that cannot be seen by the color-sighted – fascinating. And Migraine helped me to understand my own migraine cycle, as well as put my head problems on a spectrum (where I was not all that bad off).
Oliver Sacks has had a great influence on the types of stories that I pursue and his influence is central in my push to help people connect through stories. As he notes: “… there is no one like anyone else, ever. … it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.” We all have unique, and yet shared, perspectives. Sharing our stories show us that we all encounter similar types of experiences and emotions – but also celebrates the unique approaches, viewpoints, and coping structures that we each build to deal with them.
There is infinite variety in life, and in story, and I thank Sacks for showing me that.
On the discovery recently that cancer has metastasized nastily and he does not have much time left, Sacks once again provided perspective. His op-ed piece in the New York Times explores his view of the world, and what is important given the limited time he has left. His focus has become intensely personal while also celebrating humanity.
He’s grateful for the adventure – and not calling it closed until it has to be.
It’s all perspective.
If you could see the world from someone else’s perspective, whose would it be? Whose experience would you like to better understand through their stories? Tell us in the comments below.