Being Mortal

I want to share some quick thoughts about Atul Gawande's book Being Mortal, which explores topics such as euthanasia, mortality, and the final stages of life.

Being Mortal

[Book] Being Mortal

A few years ago, I came across a Nickelback music video (stay with me here) that really made me think. It featured a main character who could see exactly how long others would live for, but was not able to tell when he would die.

A little morbid for a second post, but I constantly think about what I’m on this earth for. Is life truly whimsical or do we have a purpose to fulfill? Do I have a purpose to fulfill?

The reality is that we are all mortal. How can we make our lives valuable? Some might say that we live to serve others, while hedonists seek to serve themselves.

Regardless of the reason, I know that at the simplest level, everyone seeks happiness, unless understanding and self-discovery helps us to to see life differently. No level-headed individual wants to suffer. Knowing life can end at anytime, how can we live for the future when all we know is the past and the present?

Being Mortal — this is a film from PBS Frontline that features Atul Gawande and discusses the final stages of life of people who know they are going to die soon. Watching this film made me re-evaluate the way I view life. The patients in the film, who were all terminally ill, had to choose between pursuing treatment that had a low chance of curing them of their illness and living the rest of their days out in the company of their family, friends, and the things they loved while they were healthy. Most people chose to opt out of treatment.

Why, I asked? Doesn’t everyone want to sacrifice a few months of their lives now for the potential possibility to live longer? What could you do with ten more years of your life? But the more I started thinking about it, I realized these patients’ justifying statements made sense. Would I really be willing to suffer through a few months of treatment in order to secure a future that isn’t guaranteed to exist?

I have a lot of aspirations and things I want to complete before I die, but when I realize that I’m looking only at the future and what I WANT to do, I’m starting to losing sight of what I AM doing and what I CAN do. I want to design and build my own house in the future, but how can I do that if I get diagnosed with a terminal disease that debilitates me to the point I can’t move or even think? I want to get married to someone beautiful — someone I love so much I can’t stop thinking about every single waking moment of my life, but how can I do that knowing that my early inevitable death will vanquish any hope of living together happily?

I wish I could come up with an answer to my own question, but I guess that’s a part of the continuous process of self-discovery.