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christa's picture

the dispossessed and the possessed

THE DISPOSSESSED

Greg's story is tragic; he searched to find himself and he became lost to an extent that he can never be retrieved. Greg is among the "dispossessed" according to his father; He is a semblance of a person that existed; he is a ghost. As I read about Greg, I experienced some of the same feelings I experienced when I first learned of Everett Ruess while reading a collection of stories about the desert. (I think the title was "The Telling Distance.") I recognized a similar kind of promise and longing for authenticity that Greg and Everett shared. For me, both Greg and Everett disappeared without a trace...Greg lost somewhere inside himself and Ruess disappeared in the Utah desert. "The weight of consciousness"(Sacks 64) becomes an aery relief for me when I consider Greg's permanent loss of frontal-lobe-reliant functionality. What was truly astounding was Greg's rejection of his blindness...by the strength of Greg's conviction that he could see, I kept reading along believing in a Greg that saw. I realized this when Greg spoke of Jerry Garcia's hair at the concert and I too (like Dr. Sacks looked for what Greg claimed to see on the stage)was jolted back to the reality of Greg's blindness. I did notice someone's post "Greg was not blind." That statement brings me to some more of Dr. Sack's words..."some radical alteration within him in the very structure of knowledge, in consciousness, in identity itself"(49). If knowledge is a structure, then there is the possibility for more than one structure. Just like, they(I don't know maybe the FDA) change the food pyramid on us, can we design structures of knowledge anew? Can we revise the story? Did Gregg do this? Was he the "Holy Fool" that fooled us all? Did something (some mechanism of self preservation)kick in to protect Greg from a conventional awareness of his condition...an awareness that may have driven him to suicide?

THE POSSESSED:

With Greg there is this before and after image. Now you see Gregg. Now you don't. There is a profundity in absence where Greg is concerned. At the other extremity, there is Dr. Bennett; Bennett is marked with this primitive presence that is his Tourette's, a recognizable force that Dr. Bennett has gracefully reckoned with. I can see why Tourette's has been described as a possession, a mentality Sacks tells us was common in the Middle Ages. Dr. Bennett reminds me of a ventriloquist the way he is at times able to reign his disorder in, to silence "it" and perform impeccable surgeries. The man flies his own plane too!!! Bennett transforms disability into special ability and/or remarkable adaptability...maybe Dr. Bennett and Greg are not so different as I originally maintained.

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