When breath becomes air

Paul Kalanithi was a man who spent his life trying to find Truth. First he searched for it in literature, then in neurosurgery and neuroscience. He studied at Stanford, Cambridge and Yale.

He wanted to understand the difference between brain and mind; between the physical and metaphysical. He was always acutely aware of his mortality, and was never afraid to face it.

‘When breath becomes air’ is a beautifully written autobiography of a man who had to make the difficult transition from a doctor who saved lives to a lung-cancer patient who knew that his would not be saved.

He continued to work as a surgeon despite aggressive treatment, and never gave up on his search for Truth.

This is an intelligent, thought-provoking and emotional story, and I would wager probably the best written book that I will read this year.

 

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Paul talks about how even when we live, we are dying.

Often our search for beauty, truth, for why we are here, sits in the tension between life and death. We feel immortal, cannot grasp not exising; yet are faced with the inescapable truth that one day we will die.

Beauty is often found in the physical representation of our mortality: a flower that will soon wither; a sunset whose light will suddenly fade; a short-lived rainbow. Their very mortality makes their beauty even more sweet.

If we choose not to avoid our mortality, but instead stare it in the face, I believe that our search for Truth will be enabled. The pretence that if we don’t think about death then it will never find us, just blurs our vision.

Paul Kalanithi was a man with his eyes wide open. It’s stunningly refreshing.

 

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Earth to Echo

Earth to Echo is a story of 3 boys (and later a girl) who help a cute alien to find his way back home after he was shot down in the desert near their home in Nevada. It is a story about growing up; friendship and adventure.

That all sounds a bit twee, but actually I thought it worked, and for its target audience of 8-10 year olds, it’s pretty cool.

I liked how the kids’ characters all developed through the story, but that they stayed true to themselves. They each had their own issues – the scared geek; the foster kid with a phobia of being left behind; the overlooked one who makes movies to get the attention he craves; and the popular girl who is fed up with being the princess. They learned to overcome and to work together as a team to help someone who really needed them (the alien who they named Echo.)

The camera angles of ‘found footage’ may annoy some, but I thought it worked, and it fitted in with the plot (everything is recorded on Tuck’s (the amateur film-maker) three cameras.

Echo is cute and you sympathise with him and his new human friends. The bad guys “construction workers” may be a little two dimensional, but they do the job. There are a couple of cool CGI scenes, but it’s not overdone.

I enjoyed the film and thought that the kids acted well. My 8 year old son thought it was great too. It’s no ET, but it is an enjoyable family film that will appeal to 8-11 year olds, and there was nothing too scary or violent.