The Last Hippie by Oliver Sacks Summary

9 September 2016

The Last Hippie is written by Oliver Sacks about one of his subjects that he studied and took care for. The subjects name was Greg. He was born and raised in Queens, New York to a professional family. His greatest passion in life was music, and more specifically The Grateful Dead. As years went on Greg became defiant and started using drugs. Mainly, he enjoyed taking acid. Eventually, Greg left home to join the Krisha Hare. Greg started to complain of dimming eyesight, but the people of the Krishna Hare church only attributed it to his “growing inner light”.

Eventually, Greg’s parents came to visit him after some years and were mortified to see that their son was not only fat and bald, but now he was completely blind. Greg was soon admitted to Williamsbridge hospital where it was discovered that a benign tumor had grown large enough to damage his the frontal lobe of his brain. This caused severe brain damage impairing Greg’s cognitive thinking and completely destroyed his vision.

Because Greg’s brain was damaged in such a way, he was not aware that he was blind. In one instance, in an eager attempt to teach him how to read braille, Greg was emotionally distressed when he thought others thought he was blind because he “obviously wasn’t”. Dr. Sacks also writes how Greg would “watch television”, but facing the opposite wall. Possibly the greatest struggle for Dr. Sacks, while treating Greg, was his inability to retain learned information.

Greg could remember things from the sixties so vividly, but could not remember a short melody that Sacks would play for him only a few minutes prior. His short-term memory was completely lost with the damage to his frontal lobe. At the end of Sacks’ writings about Greg, he tells the story about how he took Greg to his most beloved Grateful Dead show at MSG. The next day when Sacks mentions The Garden to Greg, he promptly responds with “I’ve never been to the Garden” making this study both paradoxical and dismal.

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