When breath becomes air…

At the age of 36, on the verge of becoming a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with an inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain. Finally, into a patient & a new father. What makes a life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder towards your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away. “Science may provide the most useful way to organise empirical & reproducible data. But, it’s power to do so is predicated on it’s inability to grasp the most central aspects of human life – hope, fear, love, beauty, honour, striving, suffering & virtue.” 

His words live on as a guide & a gift to us. “I began to realise that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing & everything. Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head – I can’t go on. I’ll go on”. There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experiences is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment. Inspiring. “The fact of death is unsettling. Yet, there is no other way to live.” A profoundly moving & exquisitely observed memoir.


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