Achieving a sense of peace
August 17, 2015 11:07 PM   Subscribe

And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.
Sabbath, an essay by Oliver Sacks (NYT) posted by Joe in Australia (15 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Segundus at 11:21 PM on August 17, 2015

Damn dust, blew into my eyes.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:07 AM on August 18, 2015

A fine human being. His intelligence and empathy shine forth in his works.
posted by mono blanco at 2:04 AM on August 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

That was a wonderful way to start my day.

Strange how life seems to put the pieces together, especially when we sit back and don't interfere, it is sometimes best to put aside our own clumsy efforts to shape the patterns in front of us.

This article pulled together a number of events and thoughts that have touched me in the past week.

I'm not Jewish (even though, as a young person, after reading a number of books by Chiam Potok, I was ready to convert and leave a boring, culture-less Lutheran childhood behind), but in the past ten years I've been accepted into the important Jewish celebrations of my wife's family, this past weekend was a Bat Mitzvah for my niece. As I watched the depth of meaning I barely understood expressed by these people I cared for, especially my Father-in-law who is now in his mid-eighties, I was reminded of what was so attractive to me, at the age of 15, about the Jewish faith..the sense of time, of generation after generation, and the joy of tradition. The palpable joy of the Rabbi providing Naomi with guidance as she melodically offered up centuries of song enveloped everyone in the temple and, Jewish or not Jewish, deeply drew each and every one into the heritage and let us rest in that sense of belonging.

At the end of the ceremony, remembrances were offered, including mention of my wife's brother, who had died of aids related illness after a life spent as a leading activist promoting aids research and treatment. Ed was a kind and compassionate soul, his name fit well into this event.

Along with this joy of Naomi's entering into adulthood, this week was touched with growing older..oddly this was laid at my feet by my pup who needed minor surgery to correct a problem common to aging dogs...(all is well, she's now home and things will be fine). It was one of those tiny moments that forced me to face the huge inevitable, something I am good at denying.

And now this article about family, change, growing old, opening minds and death. It appears that the universe is intending for me to do a bit of contemplation.

Thanks for the post, and peace to Mr. Sacks as he enters his own Sabbath.
posted by HuronBob at 2:55 AM on August 18, 2015 [17 favorites]

Oliver Sacks seems to me to be about ten different people all at once, and all of them amazing. Physician, writer, and researcher, athlete and world traveler, drug addict and mountain climber, deeply British and deeply American and deeply Jewish... If anyone knows how to wring the most living out of a lifetime, it is Oliver Sacks.
posted by OnceUponATime at 3:14 AM on August 18, 2015 [16 favorites]

I will miss him.
posted by carmicha at 7:12 AM on August 18, 2015

Every new essay by Sacks feels like a miracle, like something we weren't meant to have. When he first announced his terminal diagnosis, I fully expected he would die within a few weeks. But it's been over eight months, I believe, and he's still here, still writing. What a blessing.
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:35 AM on August 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

As always, he writes in a way that engrosses completely, then vibrates the heart. I can't bear to think his creation of words will leave us soon.

This particular essay resonates with me because after some 7 years of feeling estranged from God, the trigger being my father's death, I spent some time this summer in Israel after touring Holocaust sites in Poland, and it was the existence of Shabbat everywhere, Friday night to Saturday night, that gave me the greatest sense of peace. Now I'm slowly starting to explore attending Shabbat services back home in the U.S., and rejoining a synagogue.

Lastly, I am so sad that his family and his religion rejected him in his youth for his sexual orientation. What fools we mortals are.
posted by bearwife at 9:41 AM on August 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

If I were ever able to bring a tenth of the light and warmth Sacks seems to cast on the world through his work and writing, I would probably feel I could in good conscience rest.

Those interested in an in-depth reflection on the Sabbath and its practice might find The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time by Judith Shulevitz interesting.

It's one of the more thoughtful books about where/how religious practice meets humanity that I've come across in a while, and getting a lot out of it doesn't seem to depend on being a believer of any kind.
posted by weston at 11:45 AM on August 18, 2015

Saw this on Failed Messiah, glad it's been posted here. What a haunting piece, given his illness.
posted by Melismata at 7:23 PM on August 18, 2015

I'm sure it will be on the front page soon, but the New York Times has posted his obituary. What a wonderful person, in more than one sense of the word. Always came across as somewhat nerdy, but he really wasn't. The world is a better place because of him.
posted by TedW at 2:39 AM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

ברוך דיין האמת.

He was a man of remarkable perception and empathy, in every sense of those words.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:02 AM on August 30, 2015

posted by Coaticass at 5:02 AM on August 30, 2015

posted by Cash4Lead at 5:55 AM on August 30, 2015

posted by crocomancer at 6:43 AM on August 30, 2015

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