Once again this week we’re addressing the mind-body problem, this time through art. Writer Amy Nutt’s new book, Shadows Bright as Glass displays the artwork of Jon Sarkin, a chiropractor who suffered a severe stroke and found an new identity as poet and artist. Sarkin uses artistic expression to grapple with his old and new selves and maintains an awareness of his now-different mind.
Sarkin’s body was broken, his brain dislocated. Parts of him were missing and others unrecognizably changed. He knew it, felt it deeply and yet could not explain how or why even to himself. To truly understand what had happened, he would have to be both subject and object, actor as well as audience. He was, in a way, his own philosophy experiment: How many pieces could be removed and replaced, without him becoming a different man?
This was a question the Ancients pondered, but neuroscientists now try to resolve as they search for the sources of consciousness. Sarkin, though, was an unwitting participant. Dislodged from himself, he had no choice but to find a way back in. He understood exquisitely, painfully, in a way few individuals can, that when the rock of his identity cracked, it let loose his own unsuspecting soul.
You have such obvious artistic gifts that came with such a huge sacrifice. Are you thankful for finding your creative talent?
What happened to me is so exquisitely bittersweet. When something is really bittersweet, you really can’t taste the sweetness to it.
Am I thankful? It’s sort of like this, ask me if I ever have trouble making up my mind.