Image by Luigi Novi. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Making the rounds today on the Internet is a poignant letter from Oliver Sacks, announcing that he has terminal cancer. An NYU professor of neurology who has published several bestselling books (including one that became the basis for the 1990 film, Awakenings, starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro) Sacks first developed ocular melanoma nine years ago, and it apparently, sadly, metastasized to the liver.
Perhaps mortality is something you think about fairly often; or maybe you haven’t reached that point in life yet. Either way, I’d recommend giving his letter a read, and then maybe tucking it away. Because when — as is inevitable — you find yourself facing mortality head on, Sacks’ thoughts and outlook may help guide you through. His letter concludes:
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.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
Read Oliver Sacks’ letter in full here.
If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!