Reflection: An Anthropologist on Mars

After reading  Oliver Saks’ An Anthropologist on Mars, I began thinking and reflecting about many things. Having worked in special education for quite some time, hearing about the struggles and accomplishments of each of the individuals in the various case studies in this work really hit home for me. Disability is often thought of as a difference. Instead of viewing others as different, or not the same as the rest, we should instead celebrate the uniqueness that these individuals bring to humanity.

One of the case studies really stood out to me among the rest. In The Last Hippie, Saks tells the story of a young man, Greg, who does not realize that he has a brain tumor. This issue ends up going untreated for too long, and he loses his ability to retain new information, along with other cognitive issues. Greg becomes mentally trapped in the 1960s, only retaining memories and information from this time before the development of his tumor. This story resonated with me because of  a shared love for the Grateful Dead and psychedelic rock. Reading of the happiness Greg felt when listening to his music allowed me to make a direct connection to my personal interests. It made me reflect on what it would be like to be in Greg’s shoes; being stuck in a time period and never progressing. The way Greg still lives every day in a positive manner truly speaks to the idea of disability as a uniqueness instead of a difference. Although many people assumed Greg was unhappy in his state, he remains happy and enjoys the life he leads, even in its unconventional form.

I also was happy to finally read this essay. I had seen the film The Music Never Stopped (2011), but I didn’t know that it was based off a true narrative. Although there are some differences between the film and the essay, I think they both do Greg’s story justice. Disability and ability come in more ways than we often realize, and hearing interesting perspectives is important to learning how to reach out to these communities.

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