Monday, December 12, 2016

When a Book Inhabits

I’ve been spoiled by reading some great books lately. I’m reading a particular one slowly. I want it to last. I’m cherishing the messages within.

In WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR, Dr. Paul Kalanithi faces his own mortality, after wrestling with conceptualizing this in his own patients for years. The book description states, “One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live.”

I find I gravitate toward books where the main character or memoirist faces a challenge that specifically presses into an area where they’ve grown accustomed to feeling like an expert or somehow contented. Reading a book like this becomes a lesson for me, grasping how people react when their lives are radically stretched, when the comfortable becomes severely uncomfortable. I suppose it cycles back to my fascination with humankind and resilience.

I’ll openly admit I think about life and death matters somewhat frequently. I can’t say if this is a result of my older sister being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in her late teens or if I’m just wired to think deep about such matters.

It’s lines like the following in WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR that burrow beneath the minutiae of buying groceries and crossing off lists. “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.”

And this: “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?’”

Some books are quickly forgotten. Then there are those that inhabit us, they stay with us forever, influencing how we think and the way we view the world. WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR has nested inside me.

Have you read a noteworthy book that’s inhabited you lately?

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