How to live a meaningful life,

Well, as you probably know I love nothing more than to escape for a few hours in someone else’s story. Last week I read Paul Kalanithi’s book and got overwhelmed by it. I was so touched by it, that I found myself in tears. When was the last time you cried? ‘When breath becomes air’, is a book about how Pauls life was catastrophically interrupted. Paul, a man fueled by purpose. Motivated by a ticking clock. A man with a clear message;

“Death comes for all of us.” It is our fate as living, breathing, metabolizing organisms. “Death always wins.”

At the age of thirty-six, Paul was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live. His carefully planned and hard-won future suddenly no longer existed. He got confronted with the daily act of holding life and death, joy and pain in balance. Constantly exploring new depths of gratitude and love.

In reading his words, I had a deeper glimpse of something I couldn’t totally grasp. Only later would I realize that Paul, had added a new dimension to my understanding. “In the silence between his words, therein lies a message” .. There actually was. A beautiful message, if you ask me.  

“We think we have time, and yet .. Time is the very thing we have so little of”

Most lives are lived with passivity towards death. It’s something that happens to you and to those around you. Everyone’s eyes are always on the clock. While in the end, everyone succumbs to finitude. Money and status hold so little interest. It’s like chasing the wind. So what’s the meaning of life? Paul wrote that the tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you.

.. What matters to you?

‘The defining characteristic of the organism is striving’, is one thing Darwin and Nietzsche agreed on. Striving is part of our truth. Something that struck me with force was, not knowing what I would do if I would look death in the eyes. Paul wrote that the way forward would seem obvious, if he only knew how many months or years he had left. “Tell me three months, I’d spend time with my family. Tell me one year, I’d write a book. Give me ten years, I’d get back to treating diseases. The truth that you live one day at a time didn’t help: What was I supposed to do with one day?”.

What are you supposed to do with one day?

How many simple moments swelled with grace and beauty have you touched throughout your life? Life is all about choices and life, in the end, can be understood as a linear sum of the choices YOU made. But life is also full of the temptation to find easy paths.

I once read: “Life is like doing math. There is multiplication, division, addition and substraction. If we can think in this way, we’ll be intelligent. We know the right time and place for things. If we multiply every time, we’ll have no sense of enough. No sense of enough means no sense of growing old.”

Bron: When breath becomes air – Paul Kalanithi | Bron: In simple terms – Venerable Ajahn Chah