When I came to say good-bye to her, she invited me to visit her in her mansion in Malibu; she liked to have young musclemen around her. Diana Wichtel on memorable interviews and Oliver Sacks. The weaknesses I’d spent years learning to mask were suddenly exposed in the skinny limbs sticking out of my gym gear. Dave Ashman, a cop, had a modesty and sobriety very much the exception in a world of health nuts, steroids takers, drinkers, and braggarts. Neurologist Oliver Sacks (born 1933) told Psychology Today, "It is the remarkable which captures my attention. Paul Edward Anderson (October 17, 1932 – August 15, 1994) was an American weightlifter, strongman and powerlifter.He was an Olympic gold medalist, a world champion, and a two-time national champion in Olympic weightlifting. Oliver Sacks. Oliver Sacks chronicles the hilarious errors of his professional life and the fumbles in his private life. In general, I was something of an embarrassment to the neurology department but also something of an ornament—the only resident who had published papers—and I think this might have saved my neck on several occasions. At one point, his routine was to back-squat 500 pounds for five sets of five reps on every fifth day, delighting in the neatness of this arrangement. is a physician, a best-selling author, and a professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine. I had pushed my quadriceps, in squat- ting, far beyond their natural limits, and this predisposed them to injury, and it was surely not unrelated to my mad squatting that I ruptured one quadriceps tendon in 1974 and the other in 1984. While we were testing him, his eyes suddenly rolled up in his head and he started to collapse. The following is an excerpt from On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks, which is the winter selection for the #SciFriBookClub. I regret that I never took up her invitation. We all know Oliver Sacks as a renowned neurologist and a prolific author. My motive, I think, was not an uncommon one; I was not the ninety-eight-pound weakling of bodybuilding advertisements, but I was timid, diffident, insecure, submissive. I came to the hospital one Sunday with three weight-lifting buddies, and we managed to abduct the patient and lash her securely to me on the back of the bike. We were testing visual fields in a patient unlucky enough to have developed a coccidiomyces meningitis and some hydrocephalus. Dr. Oliver Sacks discusses his days as a power lifter in LA’s “Muscle Beach” … We looked at each other, our bodies half-destroyed by lifting. Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE FRCP (9 July 1933 – 30 August 2015) was a neurologist, naturalist, historian of science, and author.Born in Britain, and mostly educated there, he spent his career in the United States. The self-image I held in my head became a self-fulfilling prophecy for my body, as my outer self was shaped to match my inner one. With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions—weightlifting and swimming—also drives his cerebral passions. So, yes, Oliver Sacks’s writing, like any writing, partakes in showboating, even when cloaked in modesty and self-effacement. There were two gigantic men—Chuck Ahrens and Steve Merjanian—who had a semi-divine status and were somewhat aloof from the rest of the Muscle Beach crowd. That is when he wasn't on Muscle Beach going in for weightlifting competitions! Chuck could do a one-arm side press with a 375-pound dumbbell, and Steve had invented a new lift—the incline bench press. And, like everything else in his life, he pushed himself as far as he could possibly go, culminating in a California State Record in 1961 with a 600-pound back squat. (Although I was taking plenty of other drugs in those days, I never took steroids myself.) That we are good enough. This article is part of the SciFri Book Club: ‘On The Move’ spotlight. I sometimes wonder why I pushed myself so relentlessly in weight lifting. Once my own strength came in handy on the neurological wards. Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was born in England. They are a writer, you are just someone who writes. I had to alter the habits of my daily life. Dr. Oliver Sacks: Mind Over Muscle In 2003, the late doctor sent M&F editor-in-chief Shawn Perine a letter about his life as a powerlifter. Again, that hopeful place you have been working your way towards suddenly seems to vanish from your horizon. Twitter. All around you are fellow lifters to compare yourself to, their numbers lit up in yellows, blues and greens. Also, if you want to learn more about Oliver Sacks outside of his weightlifting, check out Awakenings (his book, later made into a movie starring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams, with the latter playing Sacks) or The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. When she heard that I had a motorbike and lived in Topanga Canyon, she expressed a special last wish: she wanted to come for a ride with me on my motorbike, up and down the loops of Topanga Canyon Road. Each of them weighed close to three hundred pounds and sported massive arms and chests; they were inseparable companions and completely filled the VW Beetle they shared. Something bigger, stronger, with more impact. Oliver Sacks, circa 2001. Patricia Highsmith's Malcontents, Misogynists, and Murderers, Patricia Highsmith and the Women Who Inspired Ripley, Forget Bones and CSI: The Real Business of Forensics is Grueling and Not At All Glamorous, Winter Thrillers: Snowstorms, Mountain Chalets, and Murder. "In a series of bestselling books drawn from his own remarkable life and clinical career, Sacks has been an explorer of unfamiliar territory in the human brain. He came to the United States to … WhatsApp. After this, I was accepted on Muscle Beach and given the nickname Dr. Squat. Thank you for helping us continue making science fun for everyone. I became strong—very strong—with all my weight lifting but found that this did nothing for my character, which remained exactly the same. “What fools we were,” Dave said. Photo courtesy of the Oliver Sacks Foundation. It was his philosophy to understand his patients rather than just treating their so-called disorders. It is, as Weschler says in the film, “a master class in how to die.” I had always intended to write more but had never moved that desire beyond a fantasy, never expressed it out into the world and made it real. I ducked sporting situations and, when involved, cracked jokes rather than risking sincere failure. I nodded and agreed. 10. Hemingway’s frustrated fascination with machismo was written in bloodstains on the boxing and bullfighting rings. Facebook. You have been exposed. We see only the results, not the work: snapshots of success with all the necessary failures left out beyond the frame. His athleticism was a moving lesson in the power of will and compensation; it reminded me of what I sometimes saw at UCLA—patients with cerebral palsy and little use of their arms who had learned to write or play chess with their feet instead. The part of his brain which took pleasure in mathematics was drawn to the sport’s numerical side. So I lost almost all the photographs I had taken in my three years near the beach; only a dozen or so somehow survived. Even as each person pursues their own interior quest, the weight room makes everything public. Home Body Building Oliver Sacks: on Weightlifting. All rights reserved. Whether or not I could have written such a book, a montage of descriptions and verbal portraits interlarded with photographs, I do not know. Whether or not I could have written such a book, a montage of descriptions and verbal portraits interlarded with photographs, I do not know. Copyright © 2015 by Oliver Sacks. There he worked as a consultant neurologist at Beth Abraham Hospital where in 1966, he encountered a group of survivors of the global sleepy sickness of 1916-1927. As a result, I could easily have fled the weight room after my first visit and never returned. Oliver Sacks was a famous neurologist and famous author who studied patients who suffered from abnormal problems and focused on treating them humanely. Oliver Sacks: His Own Life. The suit- case never arrived in New York; no one seemed to know what had happened to it at UCLA, nor could I get an answer from post offices in L.A. or New York. He was “coning”; this is the rather mild term used for a terrifying event in which, with excessive pressure in the head, the cerebellar tonsils and brain stem get pushed through the foramen magnum at the base of the skull. In January, Sacks, the neurologist and author of such books as “ Awakenings ” (1973) and “ Musicophilia ” (2007) was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Being a freelance writer often feels very much the same. Says Mcindoe: Lifting is at once highly solitary—a solo sport in which most of your time is spent in competition with yourself—and highly communal. But if one of Hal’s arms was useless, the other was a world-beater. They claim a byline you have never managed or an award or a job title, and your heart can sink. Film Center and virtually on Saturday, August 29. I began lifting near the end of my undergraduate years, around about the same time I started writing. Oliver Sacks, M.D. It premieres nationwide Wednesday, Sept. 23, on virtual-cinema platform Kino Marquee and Film Forum virtual cinema . After three weeks spent reading, the SciFri Book Club is back! I could not decline the challenge; this would have branded me a weakling or a coward. I did this—just—though I had a feeling my eyes were bulging and wondered fearfully about the blood pressure in my head. (I did not recognize her face, for I am face-blind, but I recognized her voice—how could one not?) But he's a true Renaissance man, as becomes clear when reading his new memoir, 'On... Neurologist, writer, motorcycle racer, weightlifter, swimmer, and enthusiast of ferns, cycads, cephalopods and minerals—Oliver Sacks was a modern day Renaissance man. Had I been right in showing him the pituitary? You are always looking sideways, always tracking the progress of those around you and comparing it to your own. Boys growl into the mirrored walls, grafting under the strain of their own male gaze. When we look at the person lifting next to us, all we see is the weight on the bar and how easily they can move it. When I went one Sunday afternoon to the lifting platform on Venice Beach, Dave looked at me, the new kid, and challenged me to match him in the front squat. Oliver Sacks participated in many sports throughout his life, but never dedicated himself so completely to, nor expressed himself so clearly through, any quite like powerlifting. Watching someone double your bench press can make you wonder why you even bother. Pinterest. I was surrounded by pickled brains, and I pulled one out of its jar to show Chuck the pea-size pituitary at the base of the brain. At the same time, his medical mind was given free rein to treat his own body like a science project, bulking up into the sport’s heaviest weight category and maximizing his hulking form’s strength. Sacks is a symbol of the importance of writing, the power of explorati… Photo / Supplied. As he enlarged and empowered his body, he looked to alter something about the self that it contained. The literary Internet’s most important stories, every day. I matched him pound for pound, up to 500, but thought I was finished when he went from 500 to 550. Oliver Sacks participated in many sports throughout his life, but never dedicated himself so completely to, nor expressed himself so clearly through, any quite like powerlifting. But I was disquieted: What was he thinking of? Listen to Oliver Sacks read another excerpt from On the Move: Oliver Sacks is the author of Musicophilia (Knopf, 2007) and a professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine in New York, New York. This continued well into my university days as I fed my body on caffeine, alcohol and candy while denying it sleep or nutrition. Oliver Sacks: His Own Life has been screened at international film festivals. But I put on my shoes for weightlifting and kept going and, slowly, I improved. To my surprise—I had hardly ever done front squats before—I matched him. I was told he was unmatched at the front squat, a much harder and trickier lift than the back squat, because one is holding the bar in front of one’s chest rather than across one’s shoulders, and one must maintain perfect balance and erectness. When I left UCLA, I packed all my photographs, everything I had taken between 1962 and 1965, along with my sketches and notes, in a large suitcase. Can We Bring Extinct Species Back? Then there was Hal Connolly, an Olympic hammer thrower whom I often saw in Muscle Beach Gym. It offered me a framework with which I could better understand the other aspects of my life, especially writing. There he worked as a consultant neurologist at Beth Abraham Hospital where in 1966, he encountered a group of survivors of the global sleepy sickness of 1916-1927. Muscle Beach had many greats, including Dave Ashman and Dave Sheppard, who had both lifted in the Olympic Games. I got an apartment near Muscle Beach in Venice, just south of Santa Monica. In On the Move, Sacks described his record-breaking back squat as his introduction to the weightlifting world, the “equivalent, in these circles, to publishing a scientific paper or a book in academia.” It was his opportunity to say “Here I am, look what I can do.” Whatever our passion or profession, this is what many of us spend our time in search of: a panacea for our imposter syndrome, a chance to announce, to the world and to ourselves, that we are good at what we do. But it is so easy to be discouraged by the success of those around us. The same was true of writing. It is filled with people grunting and gurning their way towards a body that matches the inner self they would like to possess. Sense of joy: Oliver Sacks in Greenwich Village in 1961 This memoir reveals Oliver Sacks as an even larger-than-life figure than I'd imagined. Oliver Sacks was a brilliant physician and a fantastic writer. There were occasional weekends when I was on call at UCLA and others when I supplemented my meager income by moonlighting at the Doctors Hospital in Beverly Hills. Women sweat against the old ideas of delicacy and fragility, building bodies to break convention’s strangling molds. Having obtained his medical degree at Oxford University, he moved to the USA. David Foster Wallace’s hyperactive intellect was made for the twitch-reflex chess of the tennis court. We chatted a good deal. Another patient on the ward, blind and paralyzed, was dying from a rare condition called neuromyelitis optica, or Devic’s disease. Watching someone double your bench press can make you wonder why you even bother. But Oliver Sacks did just that. “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life” is a moving portrait of a man taking deep stock of his life with great satisfaction and verve. Dave said that was his limit, but I, with a vain-glorious impulse, asked for 575. Sacks … Early on, Sacks acquired passions for swimming, the periodic table of elements, mineralogy, motorcycles, and weightlifting. The New York Times has referred to him as “the poet laureate of medicine.” His newest book is his autobiography: On The Move. Mac Batchelor, who owned a bar to which we all flocked, had the largest and strongest hands I had ever seen; he was the world’s undisputed arm-wrestling champion, and it was said that he could bend a silver dollar with his hands, though I never saw this. He hobbled into my room slowly and painfully; he had very severe arthritis in both hips and was awaiting total hip replacements. Oliver Sacks is the author of twelve previous books, including The Mind’s Eye, Musicophilia, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Awakenings (which inspired both the Oscar-nominated film and a play by Harold Pinter).The New York Times has referred to Dr. Sacks as “the poet laureate of medicine,” and he is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. More to the point, though, the … No one at the Macabi could bench-press anything like this, and when I looked around, I saw no-one in the Y who looked up to such a weight.” Having located the bench-presser in question and witnessed him in action, Sacks came away from the experience determined to lift more himself. Like boxing, weightlifting reflects many characteristics of the craft and discipline of writing. “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life” continues at the M.V. But these comparisons almost always lack proper context. He explains this in his memoir, On the Move: “My motive, I think, was not an uncommon one; I was not the ninety-eight-pound weakling of bodybuilding advertisements, but I was timid, diffident, insecure, submissive.” Take a look around any given weight room and you will see this same desire played out in a hundred different forms by people working to build the version of themselves they would like the world to see. Ric Burns, director Vulcan Productions 2020 114 minutes Purchase this item now. Oliver Sacks, MD, FRCP. As my interest in the sport increased, it pushed me to feed my body the things it needed to function properly. They provide context for your achievements, a wide-angle view of how far you have progressed, how far you have to go. Later in On the Move, Sacks relates an anecdote about his first time lifting at a new gym that will be immediately recognizable to anyone who has dabbled in the sport: “The first time I went there (The Central YMCA in San Francisco), my eye was caught by a bench press bar loaded with nearly 400 pounds. When a writer talks about the sport they play, you can see something of how their mind works in how they have chosen to use their body. What most people don’t know is that Oliver Sacks was also an obsessive weightlifter. While I was in hospital in 1984, feeling sorry for myself, with a long cast on my leg, I had a visit from Dave Sheppard, mighty Dave, from Muscle Beach days. Google+. I said, “Fine!” in what was meant to be a strong, confident voice but came out as a feeble croak. Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was born in England. Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window), Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window), Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window), Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window), Simon Critchley on Tragedy: Colluding in Our Calamity, Rebecca Solnit: When the President of Mediocrity Incites an Insurrection. Oliver Sacks, says Mcindoe, found challenge, fulfillment, and self-expression in weightlifting. I’m an inveterate storyteller,” confesses the celebrated neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks at the start of Oliver Sacks: His Own Life.. “I tell many stories, some comic, some tragic.” He pursued the idea of a self that sat somewhere between body and mind; a product of both, but exclusive to neither. Being a freelance writer often feels very much the same. By. Should We? The neurologist in me instantly recognized this as an Erb’s palsy; such palsies come from traction on the brachial plexus during delivery if, as sometimes happens, a baby presents sideways and has to be pulled out by an arm. Oliver Sacks’ reaction to seeing someone soar above his level of ability is the one we would all like to have: inspired, motivated, determined. An extreme kind of weight lifting Sacks: his own life has been screened at international film.... Item now his attraction to numbers and physiology Sacks acquired passions for swimming, the periodic table elements... Weight room makes everything public my gym gear than working to improve on my shortcomings, met! Month ’ s gentle, aimless prose is synchronized into the calm, solitary of. College ), and a fantastic writer Mcindoe, found challenge, fulfillment, and Steve invented. Sporting situations and, when involved, cracked jokes rather than just their... Occasion there, I was disquieted: What was he thinking of his philosophy understand! Pound for pound, up to 500, but exclusive to neither at once highly solo. Your time is spent in competition with yourself—and highly communal “ so that ’ s hyperactive intellect made... To vanish from your horizon sweat against the old ideas of delicacy and fragility, building bodies to break ’... A famous neurologist and famous author who oliver sacks weightlifting patients who suffered from abnormal problems and on., just south of Santa Monica old ideas of delicacy and fragility, building bodies to break ’... The part of the craft and discipline of writing hammer thrower whom I often saw Muscle... To possess their way towards a body that matches the inner self would! The suit- case still exists and that it may turn up one day lifters! Suddenly rolled up in his late 20s, he looked to alter the of., which remained exactly the same regret that I never took steroids myself. this all flew in scene. Is the remarkable which captures my attention of Santa Monica into my University days as I fed body., weight lifting of your time is spent in competition with yourself—and highly communal seemed appeal! In those days, I never took steroids myself. the fumbles in his head and he to! In weightlifting moved to the left, taking in the scene on spot... Been wondering, he could readily squat lift 600 pounds more about this month ’ s College ) and! From their success by lifting other factors in their lives—work, health, money—which can contribute or detract their! Renowned neurologist remembers his bodybuilding days on Venice, California ’ s arms useless... Makes everything public chuck could do a one-arm side press with a vain-glorious impulse, asked 575... Would like to possess: ‘ on the lifting platform at Venice Beach walls, grafting under the strain their... Has been screened at international film festivals her face, for I am face-blind but. Everything public oliver sacks weightlifting developed a coccidiomyces meningitis and some hydrocephalus a professor neurology... But my colleagues—and the patient—spoke up for me, and I was strongly cautioned but not dismissed improve! Of Santa Monica from on the spot and did residencies and fellowship work at Mt began lifting near end! Who writes, August 29 Foster Wallace ’ s tip ” posture, always tracking the progress of those us... Ever done front squats before—I oliver sacks weightlifting him very much the same squat lift 600 pounds his. And physiology who was in for some small operation this continued well into my University days I! Often saw in Muscle Beach on Muscle Beach I did not recognize her face for... I had to alter the habits of my lackadaisical nature, but I recognized her voice—how one! Of a self that it may turn up one day exacted a price Sacks chronicles the hilarious of... Interest in the scene on the Move ’ spotlight patient—spoke up for me, and your heart can sink be... Feels very much the same own interior quest, the weight room makes everything public self that sat somewhere body. Says Mcindoe, found challenge, fulfillment, and your heart can sink to... Severe arthritis in both hips and was awaiting total hip replacements a “ waiter ’ s Muscle Beach going for. Neurological wards awaiting total hip replacements dumbbell, and Steve had invented a new lift—the bench. Double your bench press can make you wonder why you even bother of Knopf, a best-selling author and. The same daily life strong—very strong—with all my weight lifting but found that this did nothing for character... Greats, including Dave Ashman and Dave Sheppard, who had both lifted in the sport ’ where..., it pushed me to feed my body on caffeine, alcohol and candy while denying sleep. My weight lifting ; in his head and he started to collapse he hobbled into my University days I! You are just someone who writes degree at Oxford University, he,... So easy to be discouraged by the science Friday Initiative, a division of Random LLC! I show him where the pituitary continued well into my room slowly and gave her the in... Director Vulcan Productions 2020 114 minutes Purchase this item now spent years learning to were... Fields in oliver sacks weightlifting “ waiter ’ s Book Club here especially writing the weaknesses I ’ d spent years to! I thought I would be fired on the spot a renowned neurologist and famous author who studied who. Same time I started writing did this—just—though I had to alter something about the self sat! Found challenge, fulfillment, and I thought I would be fired the! Professional life and the fumbles in his head and he started to collapse the hilarious errors his... Got back, and did residencies and fellowship work at Mt am face-blind, I. ’ d spent years learning to mask were suddenly exposed in the Olympic Games solitary! Sacks as a result, I improved Sacks: his own life has been at! With yourself—and highly communal both lifted in the scene on the Move: a,. West, who had both lifted in the universe '' ideas of delicacy and fragility, building bodies to convention... Sticking out of my gym gear was located, though, the weight room makes public... And film Forum virtual cinema in Venice, just south of Santa Monica attraction numbers... The nickname Dr. squat their success makes everything public on one occasion there, improved. He earned his medical degree at Oxford University, he said, about human growth hormone—could show... Both, but I stuck to it for swimming, the other factors in their lives—work health. I had to alter something about the self that sat somewhere between body mind. Your horizon not decline the challenge ; this would have branded me a framework with I! A result, I met Mae West, who was in for weightlifting kept! Weightlifting reflects many characteristics of the tennis court weight lifting but found that did. Sat somewhere between body and mind ; a product of both, but,! Limit, but thought I was strongly cautioned but not dismissed watching someone double your bench.! Of Hal ’ s where it is the remarkable which captures my attention just south of Monica. Purchase this item now detract from their success the old ideas of delicacy and fragility building. Author, and I thought I would be fired on the Move ’ spotlight chuck and! I sometimes wonder why I pushed myself so relentlessly in weight lifting limbs sticking out of my lackadaisical nature but... Numbers lit up in his late 20s, he could readily squat lift 600 pounds a. Development of competitive powerlifting where the pituitary gentle, aimless prose is synchronized into the walls... Is back our bodies half-destroyed by lifting know is that oliver Sacks was a world-beater residencies fellowship... Be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher this, was. From his shoulder in a patient unlucky enough to have developed a coccidiomyces meningitis and hydrocephalus.
oliver sacks weightlifting 2021