The Case of the Colour-Blind Painter
The Last Hippie
Greg’s absurdist, often gnomic utterances, along with his seeming serenity (actually blandness), gave him an appearance of innocence and wisdom combined, gave him special status on the ward, ambiguous but respected, a Holy Fool.
[Walter Freeman’s transorbital lobotomy:] This consists of knocking them out with a shock and while they are under the ‘anaesthetic’ thrusting an ice pick up between the eyeball and eyelid through the roof of the orbit actually into the frontal lobe of the brain and making the lateral cut by swinging the thing from side to side.
We long for a holiday from out frontal lobes, a Dionysiac fiesta of sense and impulse.
Prisoner of Consciousness (Jonathan Miller, 1988)
A Surgeon’s Life
To See and Not See
The Landscape of His Dreams
But it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that such an ‘interictal personality syndrome’, as it came to be called, received closer attention. In 1956 French neurologist Henri Gastaut wrote an important memoir on van Gogh, in which he presented the case for van Gogh having not only temporal lobe seizures but a characteristic personality change with the onset of these, gradually intensifying for the rest of his life. In 1961 one of the most gifted of American neurologists, Norman Geschwind, spoke about the possible role of temporal lobe epilepsy in Dostoevsky’s life and writings, and by the early seventies had become convinced that a number of patients with TLE showed a peculiar intensification (but also narrowing) of emotional life, ‘an increased concern with philosophical, religious, and cosmic matters’. Remarkable productiveness was seen in many patients: the writing of autobiographies, the filling of endless diaries, obsessive drawing (in those graphically inclined)—and a general sense of illumination, ‘mission’, and ‘fate’, this even in poorly educated, ‘unintellectual’ people who had shown no dispositions in these directions before.
for nostalgia is about a fantasy that never takes place, one that maintains itself by not being fulfilled
One may be born with the potential for a prodigious memory, but one is not born with a disposition to recollect; this comes only with changes and separation in life—separations from people, from places, from events and situations, especially if they have been of great significance, have been deeply hated or loved. It is, thus, discontinuities, the great discontinuities in life, that we seek to bridge, or reconcile, or integrate, by recollection and, beyond this, by myth and art. Discontinuity and nostalgia are most profound if, in growing up, we leave or lose the place where we were born and spent our childhood, if we become expatriates or exiles, if the place, or the life, we were brought up in is changed beyond recognition or destroyed. All of us, finally, are exiles from the past.
…echolalia when spoken to, echoing the last word or two of whatever other people said… Such a ‘possession’ may occur at many levels and may also be seen in people with postencephalitic syndromes or Tourette’s syndrome. An automatic mimicry can occur in these, a reflection of a low-level physiological force overriding a normal mind and personality. Such a force may determine the more automatic aspects of autistic mimicry, too. But there may also be, at higher levels, a sort of identity hunger—a need to take off, take on, take in, other personas.
An Anthropologist on Mars