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[Books] Passing away, When Breath Becomes Air, The Rejection of Death

Three years ago, I published my second ever blog site post about something that had actually constantly pestered me. I wished to know if life was genuinely whimsical or whether every one of us had a function to meet. Even today, I sometimes consider this concern, continually fascinated with the meaning of life and the inspiration that drives people to get up every day.

Just recently, after completing 2 memoirs on the topic of death and dying– by Cory Taylor and by Paul Kalanithi– I have actually just become more curious about the nature of my presence and what type of outlook I ought to have on life. These two books complement the last book I check out on the subject, Atul Gawande’s. As I compose this in the waiting room of a health center, awaiting my dad to recuperate from his surgery, I also rapidly reflect to a piece of work I skimmed my senior year of college– Ernest Becker’s.

The Rejection of Death (1973 )– Ernest Becker

When I stumbled upon Becker’s work, 2 primary points of his thesis stood apart to me. The first point mentioned that humans are the only living animals to be completely mindful of their inescapable death. This consciousness, paired with an overwhelming desire to look for peace of mind through heroism, can render an individual so incapacitated to the point that anxiety and worry take control of. The second takeaway, underpinning the first, states that in order to dominate this worry of death, people ought to succumb to the mundane tasks of everyday life in order to repress the continuous fear of dying, although everybody are actively dying with each passing minute. Becker likewise suggests that the yearning to leave keepsakes of ourselves behind is an outcome of the eternal struggle in between one’s esoteric mind and one’s physical body. Even though our material selves at the most primitive level are barely any various than state, a monkey or perhaps a pet, our minds have the ability to think beyond a simple instinctive level, allowing only us humans to mentally ponder our deaths.

” The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like absolutely nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity– activity developed mostly to prevent the fatality of death, to overcome it by rejecting in some way that it is the final fate for guys.”
— Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

Cory Taylor’s memoir on her own terminal health problem offers an insight into the mind of somebody who is consciously familiar with her death. For someone struggling with stage-4 melanoma-related brain cancer, Taylor is still really consciously knowledgeable about her imminent death, and even expatiates on topics such as euthanasia, life after death, faith, and depression. Instead of equivocating through using euphemisms, Taylor provides a blunt and honest viewpoint on the subject of death, writing what she calls an autobiography of the passing away to offer to the living.

Dying (2016 )– Cory Taylor

” In this, my last book: I am making a shape for my death, so that I, and others, can see it clearly. And I am making passing away bearable for myself.”
— Cory Taylor, Perishing

Death is something no one wishes to talk about, yet dying is something everyone should do. Taylor realizes that in order to be really at peace, she has to accept her fate. She knows that dying is inevitable, but that composing is a method for her to cope and leave something for the living.

In many ways, her story advises me of Paul Kalanithi’s, a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist keen on literature. His memoir When Breath Becomes Air was utterly heartbreaking and made me understand how unpredictable and capricious our lives are. At the age of 36, Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer; without a definite timeline of for how long he had actually left to live, he needed to select whether he wished to continue practicing medication or pursuing the path of composing. Although he had actually originally pictured starting to compose a number of decades later, his plans were tragically cut short, causing him to triage three things that were crucial to him– medicine, household, and writing.

When Breath Becomes Air (2016 )– Paul Kalanithi

” Everybody catches finitude. I presume I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Many ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; in either case, they come from the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes explained, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, undoubtedly.”
— Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

As I discovered this quote, I felt myself instantly teleported to the cusp of life and death, triggering me contemplate my hopes and dreams and whether whatever I have actually been pursuing holds any meaning in the grand plan of things. For me, I have actually arranged and recorded my expert and individual objectives so clearly I have actually documented where I want to be a year from now, five years from now, and even a years from now. When I take an action back, I realize that these strategies seem so remote and delicate, so quickly shattered by the smallest thing that does not go my method. I could pass away tomorrow; I could die fifty years later on. This uncertainty of not having the ability to achieve all my goals, coupled with an inclination to overthink about the timeline of my life, triggers me stress and anxiety and stress.

In addition, I’ve understood that I, too, am trapped in the banal events of daily work, “chasing wind”, as Kalanithi puts it. All the developments and activities we think up as human beings, the social restrictions we put on ourselves and others, and the social interactions and relationships we develop just serve to tranquilize us with the unimportant, due to the fact that eventually, we all stop living one day.

Prior to he died from cancer at the age of 37, Paul Kalanithi wished to complete his memoir, continuously telling his wife he desired it published posthumously if he wasn’t able to finish it himself. I feel distressed to understand that when I pass away, so will all my thoughts and dreams. My work will eventually be forgotten. The impressions I’ve left on others will pass away with them. As a designer, I feel especially urged to leave something important behind for the next generation of designers and anybody who sees or interacts my work. I understand that I have actually gone into as simply a drop of water in the ocean of people all wanting to differentiate themselves and pursue work that means so much to them.

Even 3 years later, I recognize I’m no closer to discovering an answer than when I first released my blog site post on being mortal. In fact, I feel only more baffled, overloaded with many unpredictabilities and moving modifications as I continue to age. Perhaps, like Cory Taylor and Paul Kalanithi, just will I begin finding responses once I face death head-on.