Friday, November 30, 2007

The Actor's Life.

Well this will officially be my last blog (hard to believe that!) and I couldn't have been happier with the reading selections for the week. The readings offered a greater cohesion of ideas we've all had the pleasure to discuss, argue and talk about these past few months. In going into this class Elizabeth told me that I would have a better understanding of myself as a human being, and perhaps a little more leniency with some of my own person "tics," not to say that I'm a big confabulator or anything...

LeDoux quotes on pave 301, "If we want to understand how our brains make us who we are, we have to figure out how [the
] Individual process blend together to cause a person to emerge effortlessly from the electrochemical activities of... his or her brain." Simply, you must look at the whole of you mine to understand "who you are-- who who, who who?"
Speaking of whos and hoots, I think that lyric by the Who tied in beautifully from our reading from Sacks, "The Surgeon's Life." Sacks explains, "any disease introduces a double ness into a life-- an "it'" with its own needs, demands, limitations" and a person afflicted will suffer to seek balance between their own desires and the "alien will of the "it." As we see in Dr. Bennett and throughout the course, balance is such a key part of illness. How does one cope with an illness? How do they find a calm in the storm of their lives? In Dr. Bennett's case that was to strike a balance between professionality and the mentality of his illness, when and where he could tick, if that meant looking down a hall before skipping, that's what it took. In the past we've seen Sack's patients like Mr. P and Witty Ticky Ray who found music to soothe their pangs of illness, to find a balance with it. I think as a society we are so ready to label and classify to understand who we are. That this person suffers from schizophrenia. Where as Sacks offers us a better understanding using Tourettes as an open example: "The toureet's and the self shape themselves each to the other, come more and more to complement each other, until finally, like a long married couple, they become a single, compound being" (Sacks 77). Exactly like that of our experiences. Not one single moment or event or part of our personality shaped our life, nor does a disease solely explain who a patients is.

Sacks goes on to further drive home the point "neither a biological nor a psychological nor a moral-social viewpoint [on understanding illness and self] is adequate; we must see Tourettes [or any illness or personality] not only simultaneously from all three perspectives, but from an inner perspective, an existential perspective, that of the afflicted person himself. Inner and outer narratives here, as everywhere, must fuse" (Sacks 78). Haven't we been reading about this all year? Our narrative like that of our brain MUST work together to form a conglomerate of who we are. It all ties together to create a tapestry of self, several strands from different aspects and perspectives to create the fabric of our being.

Just because Dr. Bennett has Tourettes syndrome doesn't mean that is all he can be. He's also a father, a husband and a (as shocked as I was) a surgeon. I hate to admit it but I had a hard time separating out how it was quite possible for him to pursue any profession with his limitations, until he explained it to me in his own words, "most of the time I'm operating, it never even crosses my mind that I have Tourette's" (Sacks 97). Well, it only takes one look at my title to see how that made sense to me. Yes, he lives a surgeon's life: completely focused on the task at hand. I can imagine that saving lives and removing tumors is rather taxing on the mind, no surprise that that focus and pressure channels the minds thoughts away from ticking. I cannot explain this in any other way but as an actor. When I'm on stage, lines memorizes, lights up and I'm acting, of course I'm still Matt Nicholson but not in that moment, I'm Aladdin on a magic carpet, Oscar Wilde in England past or I'm high kicking in A Chorus Line. My mind is so focused on what comes next (what movement, what emotion, what scene, what line, what song) that I do not have time to mentally go through my grocery lists of read a book. I have a task at hand, and that is exactly like Dr. Bennett, once you've practiced something so much like surgery and the information behind it, the path of surgery or acting is so easy to slip into.

"That the synaptic self can be a curse-- it doesn't take much to break it apart. But this is also a blessing, as there are always new connections waiting to be made. You are your synapses. They are who you are" (Le Doux 324).
I think that we've all come to know this in college, and particularly in this class. So often I realized that my conceptions of the mind and illness were so off base. Every time I enter class I had to remind myself that our memory is not a large warehouse that one portions of the brain like the amygdala does affect the whole if damaged. So thank you all for speaking your minds, challenging my ideas and putting it all out there. It doesn't take to much force to change an opinion (when backed up with evidence of course-- we did talk about that in class: When you're the only one battling for your feelings and EVERYONE else has evidence, you're more ready to be knocked down) but remember what we know may possibly change as technology and knowledge itself grows, so keep yourself up to date! You are what you know and do; you are your synapses-- so in that case, learn all you can! And good luck tying up all your conference work, I look forward to seeing them all!


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