Monday, May 23, 2016


Over the weekend I read Paul Kalanithi's "When Breath Becomes Air." I could not put the book down. In a long time, I actually finished reading a book from start to finish, non-stop. I read and re-read, I cried, I smiled, and I wished I knew this man. 

Some of the things from this memoir that struck a chord (these are all straight from the book, and not my words):

1. The mind is simply an operation of the brain.

2. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job- not a calling.

3. Diseases are molecules misbehaving. The basic requirement of life is metabolism, and death its cessation.

4. What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?

5. All you have to do is look me in the eye and say, "I'm sorry. What happened was my fault and I won't let it happen again." ...... "No. You have to be able to say it and mean it."

6. When there's no place for the scalpel, words are the surgeon's only tool.

7. Had I been more religious in my youth, I might have become a pastor, for it was the pastoral role I'd sought.

8. The root of disaster means a star coming apart, and no image expresses better the look in a patient's eyes when hearing a neurosurgeon's diagnosis.

9. A tureen of tragedy was best allotted by the spoonful.

10. I came to believe that it is irresponsible to be more precise than you can be accurate.

11. One of the early meanings of patient, after all, is "one who endured hardship without complaint."

12. The call to protect life- and not merely life but another's identity; it is perhaps not too much to say another's soul- was obvious in its sacredness.

13. Science, as I had come to learn, is as political, competitive, and fierce a career as you can find, full of the temptation to find easy paths.

14. Neurosurgery requires a commitment to one's own excellence and a commitment to another's identity.

15. Profanity supposedly ran on a slightly different circuit from the rest of the language.

16. Death comes to all of us. For us, for our patients: it is our fate as living, breathing, metabolizing organisms.

17. You can't ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.

18. Darwin and Nietzsche agreed on one thing: the defining characteristic of the organism is striving.

19. Shouldn't terminal illness, then, be the perfect gift to that young man who had wanted to understand death? What better way to understand than to live it?

20. Samuel Beckett's seven words, words I had learned long ago as an undergraduate: I'll go on. I got out of bed and took a step forward, repeating the phrase over and over: "I can't go on. I'll go on."

21. Moral duty has weight, things that have weight have gravity, and so the moral duty to bear moral responsibility pulled me back into the operating room.

22. "She has your cell membrane," I remarked to Lucy.

23. The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing.

24. Maybe in the absence of any certainty, we should just assume that we're going to live a long time. Maybe that's the only way forward.

25. There is no proof of God; therefore it is unreasonable to believe in God.

26. 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. And truth comes somewhere above all of them......

27. As I stepped out of my car at the hospital at five-twenty the next morning, I inhaled deeply, smelling the eucalyptus and...... was that pine? Hadn't noticed that before.

28. On second thought, I left my books behind. They'd be of more use here.

29. Doctors, it turns out, need hope, too.

30. In English, we use the word time in different ways: "The time is two forty-five" versus "I'm going through a tough time."

31. And so it's not all that useful to spend time thinking about the future- that is, beyond lunch.

32. Graham Greene once said that life was lived in the first twenty years and the remainder was just reflection.

33. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present.

34. There is perhaps only one thing to say to this infant, who is all future, overlapping briefly with me, whose life, barring the improbable, is all but past.

After A.J. Cronin's "The Citadel," this is my next favorite book so far.

Beautiful, Brilliant, Profound, Touching


Funnily enough, in my last post I grumbled about memoir writing and how I find it utterly boring (and ridiculous) to go dig into my past and write pages on events from my life..... well, I now understand why. The highlight of my memoir will probably be the couple small tattoos on my body that mean so much to me and perhaps the paragliding, skydiving and bungee jumping that I intend to check-off at some point.

I know this post is a digression considering this is a food blog. Perhaps I ought to start another blog and call it, "There's more to Life than just Food Blogging." And then maybe I could add that to my memoir.....

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