To do justice to this book and the impact that it had on me, I need to write for a long while. Since I can’t do that immediately, I’ll just write whatever I feel at one go here.
The book’s title was a huge draw for me from the moment I read it. “When does breath become air?” was the thought I had when I read the title for the first time in a newspaper review. To me, it indicated a specific moment of something so innately full of life losing its charm. It felt like something very special becoming ordinary.
As I started reading the book, I found a strange sense of connection. Dr. Paul was an extremely, extremely relatable man. I found myself relating to him not through life’s experiences, but through its philosophies. It was as if you found out how a totally random guy who was born far, far away from you looked exactly, accurately, precisely like you. Not a doppelganger, not a twin, not a carbon copy, but your mirror reflection.
As he began taking me through his life’s journey, I found that I had asked myself the exact same questions that he had been asking himself all along. He had looked for the answers in the same places I did and through the same methods that I did. He chose neurobiology and literature as he felt neurobiology is where he believed he can uncover a specific purpose to his existence. (One thing that Darwin and Nietzsche agreed upon). Striving. I chose physics for the same reason, hoping to find an answer.
His love for literature basically echoes my thoughts. He thinks of literature as the way through which an organism seeks solace and celebrates life.
The way he models life was perhaps the biggest thing that got me. A never ceasing asymptote that never reaches perfection.
I kind of lost it and broke down towards the end. The way he describes him coming to terms with his own mortality is something that I will never forget. How he goes from a seemingly routine life and a promising career to a patient waiting for the inevitable to happen is something that I will never forget. “Ten years and I’ll go back to surgery, one year and I’ll write a book” — it sounds too cruel to think of, but the way Dr. Paul handles it made me hold back my tears. The last time I was crying upon reading a book was when Fred Weasley died, but this time, it was a man in flesh and blood. It could basically be any human being.
The way he goes out, cradling his daughter on his last night, is a scene that I cannot take off my mind. As he says, it is not about avoiding suffering in the end, but moving ceaselessly.
I found this book in an extremely troubling time of my life and I cannot thank Dr. Paul enough for writing this book. Okay, now I have written more than I had originally intended :) Would love to hear what you think about the book.