Last week, I read “When Breath Becomes Air” by Dr. Paul Kalanithi, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
The book follows the brilliant neuroscientist Dr. Paul Kalanithi, as his reflects on his life upon being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The first half of the book outlines his journey to medicine stemming from his passion to discover life’s meaning. The next half of the book chronical his current state as he gears up to live with his cancer.
Although a short read, the themes which were discussed, and the way ideas were presented by Kalanithi was eye-opening and raw. He weaved together complex ideas of mortality, literature, spirituality, biology, and the meaning of life in a deep and unflinching way. His convictions and point of view were both refreshing yet dark.
Here are just a few of my favorite quotes from the book.
“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”
“The cost of my dedication to succeed was high, and the ineluctable failures brought me nearly unbearable guilt. Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another’s cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.”
“No system of thought can contain the fullness of human experience”.
“Death may be a one-time event, but living with terminal illness is a process.”
“Literature not only illuminated another’s experience, it provided, I believed, the richest material for moral reflection.”
It’s hard to imagine Kalanithi producing this work while also dealing with the changes and challenges that came with his diagnosis. His voice rang bold, and honest throughout the memoire and gave me a true sense of this great man.
If you’ve read the book, drop me a note @TabtihaDavid to chat!