Kishore Karanam literature  

Snippets from When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

This is one of the finest memoirs out there for me. The moment you finish the book, you cannot help but feel sad that the world lost a great man. Paul could have achieved the impossible! "When breath becomes air" will always be an essential reading on life and death. Below are a few of the lines extracted from it.

What happend to Paul was tragic, but he was not a tragedy.

“There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment.”

“You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”

“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.”

"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."

“That message is simple: When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

“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.”

"How do you decide what to do with your life when you’re not sure how much life you have left? Maybe in the absence of certainty we should just assume we’re going to live a long time. Maybe that’s the only way forward."

"Can we become comfortable with the most uncomfortable thing in the world—death? If the weight of mortality does not grow lighter, does it at least grow more familiar?"

"Life isn’t about avoiding suffering. The defining characteristic of an organism is striving."

"The pain of failure had led me to understand that in neurosurgery technical excellence was a moral requirement. Good intentions were not enough, not when so much depended on my skills, when the difference between tragedy and triumph was defined by one or two millimeters."

"When you take up another’s cross, you must be willing to sometimes get crushed by its weight."

"As a resident, my highest ideal was not saving lives—everyone dies eventually—but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness."

"Because the brain mediates our experience of the world, any neurosurgical problem forces a patient and family, ideally with a doctor as a guide, to answer this question: What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?"

"No system of thought can contain the fullness of human experience."