What would you do if you had been working to become a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist, right after getting your undergraduates degree, only to be diagnosed with a deadly lung cancer? You’re married, childless, in your mid-thirties and less than a year away from achieving your ultimate career goal. A career goal that not many have EVER accomplished.
Well, the above scenario is the life story of a brilliant man named Paul Kalanithi. I’ve been reading his amazing story/ book titled When Breath Becomes Air and it’s great, sad, enlightening, eye opening and amazingly written. Sadly, Paul passed away in March 2015 but his wisdom definitely lives on.
If you haven’t heard of this book, then you should buy it and read it. I’m 50 pages away from finishing it, and it’s one of those books that are very difficult to put down.
I found out that he has some additional essays that were published. I plan to read them soon. Check them out if you’re interested. I’m sure they’re good.
My Last Day As A Surgeon
How Long Have I Got Left?
Before I Go
Paul spent most of life reading literature about death and the meaning of life. He read all the great philosophers, writers and scientists who had written on the subject. He, then, went on to dive deeper into the question by working with patients who were actually faced with death. This was his goal all along, to answer the question of what’s the meaning of life.
Suddenly, faced with his own death, he gets the chance to see yet another perspective. That’s what his book is. He knows what the literature says, he knows how others react when death comes knocking on their door, and now he, himself, knows what it feels like to know that death is arriving at his doorstep.
And it did arrive. He died two years after his diagnoses.
Read the book. You won’t regret it.
“Although I had been raised in a devout Christian family, where prayer and Scripture readings were a nightly ritual, I, like most scientific types, came to believe in the possibility of a material conception of reality, an ultimately scientific worldview that would grant a complete metaphysics, minus outmoded concepts like souls, God, and bearded white men in robes. I spent a good chunk of my twenties trying to build a frame for such an endeavor. The problem, however, eventually became evident: to make science the arbiter of metaphysics is to banish not only God from the world but also love, hate, meaning – to consider a world that is self-evidently not the world we live in. That’s not to say that if you believe in meaning, you must also believe in God. It is to say, though, that if you believe that science provides no basis for God, then you are almost obligated to conclude that science provides no basis for meaning and, therefore, life itself doesn’t have any. In other words, existential claims have no weight; all knowledge is scientific knowledge.
Yet the paradox is that scientific methodology is the product of human hands and thus cannot reach some permanent truth. We build scientific theories to organize and manipulate the world, to reduce phenomena into manageable units. Science is based on reproducibility and manufactured objectivity. As strong as that makes its ability to generate claims about matter and energy, it also makes scientific knowledge inapplicable to the existential, visceral nature of human life, which is unique and subjective and unpredictable. Science may provide the most useful way to organize empirical, reproducible data, but its power to do so is predicated on its inability to grasp the most central aspects of human life: hope, fear, love, hate, beauty, envy, honor, weakness, striving, suffering, virtue.” -Paul Kalanithi