My first book for the year 2018 was a wonderful opening to my reading account for this year. I fell in love with the writer and the book as easily as drinking water and so was the impact. It was like quenching the thirst of my parched mind. To begin with, what attracted me the most was the author’s love for books, reading and literature, inculcated in him from a tender age. Literature opens your mind to a gateway to various ideologies and perspectives which you could not learn enough through a lifetime worth of research and study. It makes you think. It provokes your inquisitiveness and you begin to question everything. Likewise, young Paul wished to probe into philosophy, meaning, identity, life and death. How does human mind work? What is the role of human brain? Where do biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect? With these questions the young mind of the author studied literature and medicine.
The book was in retrospection and introspection of the author’s life. Each book one reads is an experience and this book was an overwhelming and intoxicating one. He writes about growing up, his studies, his profession and his experiences in the field. He explains the sanctity of a doctor-patient relationship and the role a doctor plays in the lives of his patients and their families.
“The physician’s duty is not just to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.”
He played a crucial role in the lives of his patients as a neurosurgeon. Most of his patients were suffering from ailments that shattered their lives and changed their entire existence. The decision-making for these lives lay in his hands. How could one learn to make, and live with, such judgement calls? Mere knowledge and intelligence do not suffice in making these judgements. It takes moral clarity and wisdom. He quotes various instances illustrating the life lessons he learnt. Situations which made him question himself. And thus, his quest for meaning continued.
What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?
You seek what life is in death, Now find it air that once was breath. New names unknown, old names gone: Till time end bodies, but souls none.
Reader! Then make time, while you be, But steps to your eternity.
-Baron Brooke Fulke Greville, “Caeilica 83”
Death is inevitable. It is a known unknown. We know every being that is born is to die one day. We know it can happen at any moment but we know not when. But how would you live when you know death is round the corner ready to jump at you any moment now. Would you live life the same way? Would you feel the same about life? How would you spend the rest of your remaining part of life.
So finally he writes about death and the days he spent looking death in the eye. Did he fight a battle and win it? No. He was in denial, he was angry, he strived to find ways to escape, he got depressed and he cried about it and then he accepted. He welcomed death with open arms and in the meanwhile he lived. He lived with death. He was a neurosurgeon and made a difference in several lives using every ounce of his energy, he was a loving husband and provided security to his wife and assured her needs were fulfilled, he was a father and dreamed about his daughter's future, and he was a patient and he accepted wholeheartedly what life handed to him. Finally he was a writer, and he shared his life with readers like me. It was great knowing him through this book.
“We shall rise insensibly, and reach the tops of the everlasting hills, where the winds are cool and the sight is glorious.”