Inspirational Quotes

Best When Breath Becomes Air Quotes 2021

In ‘When Breath Becomes Air’, published in 2016, ‘Breath’ represents life and the title in a way represents the moment the author dies.

The book is written by Paul Kalanithi, an Indian-American neurosurgeon. On average, the books can take up only approximately about 4 hours to read.

Growing up, Paul Kalanithi started having his wonderful adventures with literature when he was 10. His mother handed him a copy of ‘1984’ and, as the author explains in the book, from then on through a plethora of different books from all kinds of authors, he fell in love with the beauty of language. So even though he wanted to be a surgeon, he still got Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in literature while he was in Stanford. Then he got his medical degree and went on to become a neurosurgeon. After he came to know that he had cancer, he first wrote a little essay on coping with cancer. When he sent it to one of his friends, they sent it to the New York Times and once the essay got published, editors and agents approached him and he decided to write ‘When Breath Becomes Air’. After his death, the book was published and went on to become a best seller. Here we have some gems from the book that can enlighten the world.

Best Quotes From ‘When Breath Becomes Air’

The book tells the story of the last years of a dying man.

Here we have some of the best quotes that perfectly explain the philosophical mind and the knowledge about life, science or religion that the author had. Take a look at these quotes about religion in ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ and more.

1. “Well, I guess I learned one thing: if I’m ever feeling down about my work, I can always talk to a neurosurgeon to cheer myself up.”

– Jeff, Part I.

2. “As a resident, my highest ideal was not saving lives — everyone dies eventually — but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part I.

3. “Before operating on a patient’s brain, I realized, I must first understand his mind: his identity, his values, what makes his life worth living, and what devastation makes it reasonable to let that life end.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part I.

4. “At home in bed a few weeks before he died, I asked him, ‘Can you breathe okay with my head on your chest like this?’ His answer was ‘It’s the only way I know how to breathe.'”

– Lucy & Paul Kalanithi, Epilogue by Lucy Kalanithi.

5. “I sat, staring at a photo of Lucy and me from medical school, dancing and laughing; it was so sad, those two, planning a life together, unaware, never suspecting their own fragility.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

6. “If the unexamined life was not worth living, was the unlived life worth examining?”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part I.

7. “The main message of Jesus, I believed, is that mercy trumps justice every time.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

8. “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.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

9. “‘What are you most afraid or sad about?’ she asked me one evening while we were lying in bed. ‘Leaving you,’ I told her.”

– Lucy & Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

10. “I expected to feel only empty and heartbroken after Paul died. It never occurred to me that you could love someone the same way after he was gone, that I would continue to feel such love and gratitude alongside the terrible sorrow, the grief.”

– Lucy Kalanithi, Epilogue by Lucy Kalanithi.

11. “Science may provide the most useful way to organize empirical, reproducible data, but its power to do so is predicated on its inability to grasp the most central aspects of human life: hope, fear, love, hate, beauty, envy, honor, weakness, striving, suffering, virtue.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

12. “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.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

Quotes ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ About Life

The book has a beautiful philosophical side.

Going through cancer and living with it for a few years, the author had much more of an understanding of life and death. These are a few of ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ significant quotes that explain life from the author’s point of view.

13. “Death comes for all of us. For us, for our patients: it is our fate as living, breathing, metabolizing organisms. Most lives are lived with passivity toward death — it’s something that happens to you and those around you.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part I.

14. “The physician’s duty is not 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.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

15. “Death may be a one-time event, but living with terminal illness is a process.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

16. “The brain mediates our experience of the world, any neurosurgical problem forces a patient and family, ideally with a doctor as a guide, to answer this question: What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part I.

17. “Life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

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

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

19. “I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

20. “The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

21. “Any part of me that identified with being handsome was slowly being erased—though, in fairness, I was happy to be uglier and alive.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

22. “There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment.”

– Mo, Part I.

23. “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.”

Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

24. “When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself … do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy … a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

Inspirational ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ Quotes

While battling with cancer, holding onto hope and learning more about life and the universe around us, Paul Kalanithi was more courageous than anything. Here are some of his inspirational words that can help you go through a tough time.

25. “Moral duty has weight, things that have weight have gravity, and so the duty to bear mortal responsibility pulled me back into the operating room.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

26. “Even if you are perfect, the world isn’t. The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part I.

27. “Literature not only illuminated another’s experience, it provided, I believed, the richest material for moral reflection.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

28. “It’s very easy to be number one: find the guy who is number one, and score one point higher than he does.”

– Paul Kalanithi’s father, Part I.

29. “What patients seek is not scientific knowledge that doctors hide but existential authenticity each person must find on her own. Getting too deeply into statistics is like trying to quench a thirst with salty water. The angst of facing mortality has no remedy in probability.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

30. “You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part I.

31. “The cost of my dedication to succeed was high, and the ineluctable failures brought me nearly unbearable guilt. Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another’s cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part I.

32. “Years ago, it had occurred to me that Darwin and Nietzsche agreed on one thing: the defining characteristic of the organism is striving.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part II.

33. “I had a nagging sense that there was still far too much unresolved for me, that I wasn’t done studying.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part I.

34. “Being with patients in these moments certainly had its emotional cost, but it also had its rewards. I don’t think I ever spent a minute of any day wondering why I did this work, or whether it was worth it.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part I.

35. “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

– Samuel Beckett, Part II.

36. “This is how 99 percent of people select their jobs: pay, work environment, hours. But that’s the point. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job — not a calling.”

– Paul Kalanithi, Part I.

Essential Quotes from When Breath Becomes Air

  1. If the unexamined life was not worth living, was the unlived life worth examining?
  2. Moral speculation was puny compared to moral action.
  3. All of medicine, not just cadaver dissection, trespasses into sacred spheres. Doctors invade the body in every way imaginable. They see people at their most vulnerable, their most scared, their most private.
  4. Indeed, this is how 99 percent of people select their jobs: pay, work environment, hours. But that’s the point. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job — not a calling.
  5. As I sat there, I realized that the questions intersecting life, death, and meaning, questions that all people face at some point, usually arise in a medical context. In the actual situations where one encounters these questions, it becomes a necessarily philosophical and biological exercise. Humans are organisms, subject to physical laws, including, alas, the one that says entropy always increases. Diseases are molecules misbehaving; the basic requirement of life is metabolism, and death its cessation.
  6. Because the brain mediates our experience of the world, any neurosurgical problem forces a patient and family, ideally with a doctor as a guide, to answer this question: What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?
  7. As a resident, my highest ideal was not saving lives — everyone dies eventually — but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness.
  8. When there’s no place for the scalpel, words are the surgeon’s only tool.
  9. The cost of my dedication to succeed was high, and the ineluctable failures brought me nearly unbearable guilt. Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another’s cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.
  10. The pain of failure had led me to understand that technical excellence was a moral requirement. Good intentions were not enough, not when so much depended on my skills, when the difference between tragedy and triumph was defined by one or two millimeters.

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