When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"A tureen of tragedy is best allotted by the spoonful."
It is so hard to accept the death of someone who is young, who has accomplished and contributed so much, and who is brimming with potential. I forced myself to read this book hoping that it would contain some wisdom, some revelation - something to mitigate the sorrow. Like rain, which falls upon both the just and the unjust in the world, so cancer attacks indiscriminately. But when someone like Paul Kalanithi falls....
He had worked so very hard to finally arrive at his destiny in life - to begin his official career in neuroscience. There was just so much promise ...
He grasped the importance of philosophy and classic literature and worked through the problems that these disciplines drop onto our plates. He looked for the answers to all of life's most important questions, deciding finally that neuroscience encapsulated them all. His philosophical discussion supporting faith and science and God is outstanding. He helped people. He worked tirelessly to keep people alive - to help them pull through terrible neurological challenges.
Paul Kalanithi pursued arete. He succeeded here and death does not take that away from him.
My favorite quote: "...even if I am dying, until I actually die, I am still living."
He quoted Samuel Beckett a few times during his treatment ups and downs: "I can't go on. I'll go on." I loved this.
And when it was apparent that the fight was over he said, "I'm ready." These were the words I needed to hear. He was intelligent, brave, practical, noble, and loving from start to finish. He was as impressive a human being in death as he was in life.
It is an honest book. Sad, but packed with all the right stuff.
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