I finished Dr. Oliver Sacks’ new book, “The Mind’s Eye” yesterday and I highly recommend it not only for those of us who are strabismic, but also for parents of cross-eyed children to better understand how incredibly plastic and flexible our minds are. Only two of the chapters deal
with 2D and 3D vision, but the rest of the book is telling and moving as well because it shows the extraordinary adaptations that his patients and correspondents made to accommodate to their changes in vision. For example, the Canadian writer who couldn’t read anymore found a way to write novels.
“The Mind’s Eye” beautifully illustrates the mystery and incredible powers of the mind in relation to vision. I was humbled to read how Dr. Sacks himself was in awe of how his patients and correspondents dealt with changes in their vision. Oftentimes, doctors present themselves as omniscient healers, when in fact, they and the scientific community have much left to explore about the way the brain and mind work and alter our way of experiencing life. In many of his chapters, he stresses how the brain is more plastic than previously thought. I
didn’t feel like I was reading a doctor’s account of how the brain works, but rather the well-crafted words of a compassionate medical humanist intrigued
about how we see and relate to the world. It wasn’t a boring medical report written for clinicians, it was a book for people to marvel and learn about how others adapt to losing 3D vision, and the ability to read and recognize people and places. We are more powerful than we think.
As a strabismic (cross-eyed) person, I was moved by Sacks’ chapters on strabismic Stereo Sue gaining 3D vision in her late 40s after living in a 2D world and his own account of losing vision in one eye, rendering him monocular and confined to the limitations of life in 2D. Although I couldn’t imagine his 3D to 2D shift, I still appreciated the emotions he went through as his world suddenly became flat.
The book is available as an audio book, in large print and is also out in Dutch and Portuguese. (Check http://www.oliversacks.com for more information about other languages.)