When Breath Becomes Air [LINK] – Paul Kalanithi
This is one of my all-time favorite books and consider it a must read for anyone. This is not one you will forget about after finishing. Each page reads as if you are sitting with Paul – he grabs your attention from the first page onward and it’s excepyionally difficult to put down.
“I flipped through the CT scan images, the diagnosis obvious: the lungs were matted with innumerable tumors, the spine deformed, a full lobe of the liver obliterated. Cancer, widely disseminated. I was a neurosurgical resident entering my final year of training. Over the last six years, I’d examined scores of such scans, on the off chance that some procedure might benefit the patient. But this scan was different: it was my own.”
Paul emphasizes the goal is not to make us feel sorry for him, he wants to share his attempt at philosophizing on what makes a virtuous and meaningful life. “At those critical junctures, the question is not simply whether to live or die but what kind of life is worth living.”
We do not need to fear death, for all organisms do eventually die. We should strive to understand it, how our morals change as we grow closer to it, becoming more aware and mindful. Being in the present moment, and “knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.” We humans too, are subject to the law that entropy always increases. Death comes for all of us.
“Even if you are perfect, the world isn’t. The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose… You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving”
As the memoir concludes, the question comes of, how to live a meaningful life? While Paul is sadly no longer with us, he believed the key, through any circumstance, is to live with integrity.
This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read. It explores the cross section of life and philosophy. It is tragic yet inspiring, thought provoking while direct. I can assure you if you read this, you will be more appreciative of life, and hopefully strive to make yours more meaningful.