The late Roger Ebert was always candid about his battle with thyroid cancer and the toll it took on his body. As his cancer progressed, Ebert lost his ability to speak and the once-voluble film critic was forced to grapple with the loneliness and the loss of identity he experienced over relinquishing his voice, but not his ability to communicate. Turning to social media and the internet, Ebert continued to assess movies with his trademark directness and wit, even chronicling his experience as a cancer patient in his blog, Roger Ebert’s Journal.
In a gripping TED2011 talk, Ebert spoke with the help of a computer voice, two close friends and his wife Chaz, about how the Internet and digital revolution gave him his voice back.
(MORE: Roger Ebert R.I.P.)
You can watch Ebert’s TED Talk, “Remaking My Voice” here:
Here are some notable comments that showcase the film critic’s remarkable perseverance, honesty and sense of humor:
“All my life I was a motor mouth, and now I have spoken my last words and I don’t even remember for sure what they were.”
“All of this has happened in the blink of an eye. It is unimaginable what will happen next. It makes me incredibly fortunate to live at this moment in history. Indeed, I am lucky to live in history at all because without intelligence and memory there is no history.”
“For billions of years the universe evolved completely without notice. Now we live in the age of the Internet which seems to be creating a form of global consciousness and because of it, I can communicate as well as I ever could.”
“For me, the Internet began as a useful tool, and now has become something I rely on for my actual daily existence…I feel as if my blog, email, Twitter and Facebook have given me a substitute for everyday conversation. They aren’t an improvement, but they’re the best I can do. They give me a way to speak. Not everybody has the patience of my wife Chaz, but online, everyone speaks at the same speed.”
“When you see me today, I look like the Phantom of the Opera. It is human nature to look like me and assume I have lost some of my marbles. People talk loudly and slowly to me, sometimes they assume I am deaf. There are people who don’t want to make eye contact. It is human nature to look away form illness. We don’t enjoy a reminder of our own fragile mortality. That’s why writing on the Internet has become a lifesaver to me. My ability to think and write has not been affected, and on the web, my real voice finds expression.”
“I have not come here to complain, I have much to make me happy and relived. I seem, for the time being, to be cancer-free. I am writing as well as ever, I am productive. If I were in this condition at any point before a few cosmological instances ago, I would be as isolated as a hermit. I would be trapped inside my head. Because of the rush of human knowledge, because of the digital revolution, I have a voice, and I do not need to scream.”