Communication. Language. Is it confined to words? Written or spoken? Are words limiting or expansive? Without my powers of speech can I communicate? Without the ability to read, would I be lost? If I lost my sight, would I lose the ability to imagine? Would I still be able to visualize a memory? A picture is worth a thousand words. Or is it?
In Oliver Sacks’ The Mind’s Eye, he tackles the idea of language and the myriad abilities, both perceived and unknown, that we use to communicate. He begins the journey with words (specifically, the loss to speak or read them) working his way, individual by individual, story by story, to the ability to see them, though blind (seeing in braille); ending with the ultimate irony perhaps.
Though people feel as if they see with their eyes (just like it seems like we feel with our fingers and hear at our ears), this is not where it happens. It all happens in the brain; we see, hear, taste, feel in our brain. We all know remembering and thinking occur there, but do they require our senses? When we think do we visualize, do we see representations? How do we think?
…I find myself uncertain whether words, symbols, and images of various types are the primary tools of thought or whether there are forms of thought antecedent to all of these, forms of thought essentially amodal.
Therein lies the point of the book: detailing the means of how we go about communicating with each other and within ourselves, when our brains are ‘normal’ and not. It is a not to be missed serial for any and all fascinated by the immense, at times untapped, potential of our brains.