'An Anthropologist on Mars' by Oliver Sacks
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An Anthropologist on Mars
By Oliver Sacks

Seven case studies of people who have a neurological disorder—for instance, color blindness—and the creativity that comes as a result of the seeming handicap make up this collection. The title is taken from my favorite essay, about Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who has this tremendous compassion for animals and designs very humane slaughterhouses. She says that when she sees human beings interacting with each other, she feels like "an anthropologist on Mars." The most extraordinary scene is when Sacks learns that she's made herself "a hug machine." I suppose what was so moving about it was her resourcefulness. She needed some kind of physical contact but couldn't accept it from someone else, so she created her own way of soothing herself.

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