When Breath Becomes Air is a poignant memoir by a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi. I think everyone here would enjoy this profound little book. (Especially Dr. @jpm!)
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.
Raised in a Christian home where prayer and Scripture reading were a regular part of family life, Dr. Kalanithi strayed from faith after college and settled into atheism. He embraced a scientific worldview that would grant a complete metaphysics without religion.
But, as he explains, “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.”
Paul died on March 9, 2015 as a Christian believer, surrounded by his family. He struggled to finish his book as his condition deteriorated. His wife wrote the epilogue.
Rest in peace and rise in glory, Dr. Kalanithi.