An Anthropologist on Mars
What is normal? According to the Perdue owl definition of normal, normal is,
“Conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.” According to Oliver Sack, being normal meant being free of mental illnesses, however those who aren’t normal can still have the metal audacity to accommodate into the normal world.
On the one hand, we see that Sacks takes many pains to try and help his patients back into the world where the “normal” people live. For example, with the colorblind painter, Sacks and his colleague commonly checked how Mr. I perceived color, contrast, and identifying colors of differing saturation. His reasoning behind this, beyond the necessity of him checking up on Mr. I, seemed to be Sacks trying to judge how Mr. I was handling himself being different, and how he was coping with this fact.
Yet on the other hand, Sacks speaks in volumes of how despite Mr. I’s defect of cerebral achromatopsia, he has been able to adjust on some level to a “normal” existence. There’s a section on page 37 where Sacks talks about how Mr. I “took to exploring other cities, other places, but only at night”. This of course, was due to the fact that his condition had made nighttime much more vibrant for him than any color was. “There’s a lot of space – you’re not hemmed in by streets, by people…it’s a whole new world.”
This is a pattern that Sacks repeats throughout the book, most notably with the last story he speaks of. Temple Grandin, a person with high-functioning autism, seemed to reconfigure Sack’s thought of “normal” the most. While he does accept her lack of understanding social interaction and the “games people play, as well as how she can’t “enjoy the ‘normal’ satisfactions – love and friend ship, recreation and society” (Sacks, 273), Sacks speaks highly of the fact that despite her having autism, she’s able to function like an intelligent, “normal” human being. All of this plays to the fact that...