The Passing of Craven, Dyer and Sacks: More Than Three Crystals Make a Chandelier


On the night I learned Wes Craven, Wayne Dyer and Oliver Sacks died within 24 hours of each other, I stopped the bedtime ritual of notebook writing and peppermint tea, delayed counting the minutes before I shut down electronics, and dwelled in the coincidence. Full moon hovered out my window, end of summer crickets chirped. That’s strange, I thought, and didn’t quite know why. Three high profile men, in different fields, gave three quarters of a century each to questioning the edges, tricks and depths of the mind. They exited the earth on the same day, an ordinary day, along with many other, beloved people who also did wonderful things. Still, I had to ask, does this signify something? If not to the world, then to me?

It has become a habit to notice when I notice patterns; recurring numbers, recurring people, recurring ideas. It’s a particular way of seeing the world, a choice, a decision, a preference to reflect on observations that seem otherwise unrelated, unimportant. The process doesn’t always lead to an explosive revelation, like many assume, or wish. The circumstances don’t always mean something in and of themselves, and the insights aren’t always signs, indicators of the right or wrong path, or answers.  But they do emerge like this, sometimes, at the end of the day, after a brief mention or a pattern in the news, in the neighborhood, in the next room. They prompt my attention, even though our culture tells us to trust the facts and ignore the stuff that doesn’t add up. Sometimes symmetry pops up in places least expected, and it’s useful.

Here was a perfect example.  Sacks, Dyer and Craven couldn’t have had more distant disciplines. Of the Neurologist, Inspirational teacher, and Horror Movie maker, it’s easy to say who has earned the most cultural clout (Sacks) although each achieved similar levels of praise and admiration. It’s probable that Oliver Sacks never saw a Wes Craven film or attended a Wayne Dyer seminar. Similarly, Dyer and Craven may never have considered each other as colleagues. But they had things in common. Each was a white man born in the 1930s within eight years of each other. Each achieved worldwide audiences. Each claimed professional territory over human mind states in previously unfounded ways: Craven worked with the horror mind state, Dyer worked with the spiritual mind state, and Sacks worked with the neurologically mechanical mind state. They put down their flags in these worlds by first studying and then telling stories about them, shaped them by creating, producing, then mass-producing narratives through film, inspirational courses, and books. They inserted their personal experiences, blending themselves with the subject matter until, to the rest of us, they almost became one in the same.

Until they died, I hadn’t looked at how easily I absorbed their work, like Vitamin D from the sun. Without effort, I accepted their offerings as structure, as truth. How the real Nightmare on Elm Street was the depth of the unconscious mind, the fear of where it roamed while sleeping. How a positive thinking habit was a well-worn trail worth walking and how the brain, once explored, system by system, function by function, was more mysterious, not less. From dominant and seductive platforms, these three men peddled their encounters with the human mind. They shaped the culture’s understanding of horror, empowerment, and the brain to mirror their own. Kings of cultural empires.

This is what the coincidence came down to for me. I consumed these men’s truths, their data streams, never considering theirs might not be all the data, or that the streams would stop, and an enormous space would open up, making room for a flood of new views on the mind.

Something is ending, a wise friend of mine said about the simultaneous Craven, Dyer, Sacks passing, and I agree with her. Their voices are ending. Their story telling is ending. Their territories over the human mind are due to be reassigned, reconfigured, remade. New kingdoms, probably queendoms, are to come.

I thank them, from my heart, for the beautiful light they shined, like three finely formed crystals in a chandelier.

And then I think: so many more crystals make a chandelier. I cannot wait to see the others.