Medieval European philosophers had it easy. The available books were scarce enough so that one could pretty well read them all, and new writings were few and far between. If you were Thomas Aquinas, you could simply refer to Aristotle as " the philosopher" and your little circle of readers would get the reference. These days, we are flooded with books, articles, blog posts, tweets, opinions, news flashes -- a barrage of information that requires some filtering mechanism simply to make it manageable. Like everyone else, I respond by maintaining my own private Pantheon of reliable, insightful thinkers in whose writings I can be confident of finding, wisdom, wit, thoughtful reflection, and just sheer intellectual fun. One of that very small circle of my personal gods is the great neurologist Oliver Sacks, whose books I have cherished for many years.
Yesterday, Oliver Sacks published an excruciatingly beautiful and deeply sad column in the NY TIMES in which he told us all that he has terminal liver cancer and will live only a few more months. Sacks is just my age -- far too young to die, and far too valuable to leave us.
Emily Dickinson wrote a poem in which she raged at a God who demands that we die in order to see him. What motive save petty envy would move an omnipotent being to snatch away our treasured few? If there is any convincing evidence of the non-existence of God, it is the death of men and women like Oliver Sacks.