The Personalist Project

I've been ailing. It's nothing serious—not like cancer. As illnesses go, it's about as painless as they come. But it's depleted my energy and kept me from doing much of anything lately. I'm to have surgery Friday, and then a period of convalescence, after which I hope to recover some energy. I'm so looking forward to feeling myself again!

Meanwhile, I'll do my best to post short little items of interest to those interested in personalism. I'll share notes from the books I'm reading and movies I'm watching and thoughts I'm having.

Here's one, from the title chosen for this month's meeting of our neighborhood book club: When Breath Becomes Air. It's the memoir of a talented neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi, who finds himself dying of lung cancer at the age of 37.

In college he'd studied neurology and literature, uncertain of which to pursue as a career.

I was driven less by achievement than by trying to understand, in earnest: What makes human life meaningful? I still felt literature provided the best account of the life of the mind, while neuroscience laid down the most elegant rules of the brain. Meaning, while a slippery concept, seemed inextricable from human relationships and moral values.

After graduating, he decided to continue studying for an MA in literature.

I had come to see language as an almost supernatural force, existing between people, bringing our brains, shielded in centimeter-thick skulls, into communion.

Is that not a beautiful and true statement about the spirituality of human life? We are incarnate in bodies—definitely located and contained in the material world. I am in Pennsylvania, not France. I am a woman, not a man. I have my experiences and feelings, not another's. And yet, through language, we can commune with one another even from vast distances. I am not dying, yet, but by reading Dr. Kalanithi's words, I am learning something about what it's like to be dying, and feeling my life enriched.

It's mysterious. 

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