When Breath Becomes Air
Paul Kalanithi and Abraham Verghese
Nabokov, for his awareness of how our suffering can make us callous to the obvious suffering of another.
Literature not only illuminated another’s experience, it provided, I believed, the richest material for moral reflection.
If the unexamined life was not worth living, was the unlived life worth examining?
brains give rise to our ability to form relationships and make life meaningful. Sometimes, they break.
this is how 99 percent of people select their jobs: pay, work environment, hours. But that’s the point. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job—not a calling.)
of time passing, then surgery felt like the opposite: the intense focus made the arms of the clock seem arbitrarily placed.
Lucy and I both felt that life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.
the defining characteristic of the organism is striving.
The privilege of direct experience had led me away from literary and academic work, yet now I felt that to understand my own direct experiences, I would have to translate them back into language. Hemingway described his process in similar terms: acquiring rich experiences, then retreating to cogitate and write about them. I needed words to go forward.
Because I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.
Moral duty has weight, things that have weight have gravity, and so the duty to bear mortal responsibility pulled me back into the operating room.
person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.