As the week-end progressed, I've heard about the deaths of some figures which have been huge in popular culture: Wes Craven, Oliver Sacks, and Wayne Dyer. My writerly brain immediately started thinking about the connections, and here's what I came up with: all three men understood much more than the normal human about how the brain works.
I won't claim that any single one of them influenced me in the way that, say, Alice Walker did in my younger years. But they've been there, in the background, inventing and reinventing themselves, while I tuned in occasionally.
Wayne Dyer's views about ignoring societal messages about guilt and living our best lives are so common now that we forget how radical they may have once seemed. Wes Craven knew how to scare us (Nightmare on Elm Street) and then how to both scare us and make us laugh. I recently watched Scream again for the first time in 20 years, and I had forgotten what a powerful movie it was. And by exploring the different ways that the brain can go wrong, Oliver Sacks taught us a lot about brains that weren't at an extreme end of a spectrum.
I was also struck by the age of these men who had died; they've all lived a long time. I've been spending time being struck by the passage of time. I've lived in South Florida much longer than I have ever lived anywhere else, since 1998. I've seen children born who have since gone off to high school and college. Friends who are my own generation have also aged, but it's not quite as visible year to year. It only becomes obvious when I slow down to think about it.
Some of the changes, like health changes, are painful, so I try not to think too much about it. But it's also good to reflect on what we've managed to accomplish: books written, books published, quilts created, thousands of students taught. That's the short list.
Have we done the work that will transform the way the larger society views a subject? Yes, but it's hard to think our work will get the larger attention it may deserve. It's hard to imagine that me or my friends will become a staple of PBS fund drives or that our scholarly work will be transformed into films. It's easier to think of acclaim for our creative work.
We don't have as much time as we once did, as we hope we do. Let me remember that as I move throughout my days.
Best Essay Collections of 2017 by Women Authors
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