Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
By Atul Gawande, MD
This is a book about the modern experience of mortality— about what it’s like to be creatures who age and die, how medicine has changed the experience and how it hasn’t. . . . Lacking a coherent view of how people might live successfully all the way to their very end, we have allowed our fates to be controlled by the imperatives of medicine, technology, and strangers. —Atul Gawande, MD
Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal is essential reading. It is essential for all who are entering older age. For all who are who are facing serious illness. And for all who are nearing the end of life. Continue reading
From The Red Book, Carl Jung
“Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world,” Joseph Campbell wrote. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.
It is a hard saying, not an easy one. It reflects a great truth passed down for millennia.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, it appears this way:
The acceptance of our suffering as an aid to the growth of awareness, study of great wisdom teachings, and complete surrender to the divine force within each of us — these three things are yoga in practice. [My translation, which others may dispute].
Women Carding, Combing and Weaving Wool (detail). Boccaccio. Le Livre des cléres et nobles femmes. MS Fr. 12420, fol. 71; French 1403. Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris.
If you are in search of some summer reading (or New School podcasts for your walks and drives), here are some suggestions:
- Thomas Picketty, Capital in the 21st Century. Paul Krugman says “the most important economics book of the year—and maybe of the decade. Picketty, arguably the world’s leading expert on income and wealth inequality, does more than document the growing concentration of income in the hands of a small economic elite. He makes a powerful case that we’re on the way back to “patrimonial capitalism,” in which the commanding heights of the economy are dominated not just by wealth, but by inherited wealth, in which birth matters more than effort and talent. Picketty’s range of reference to literature and social thought makes Capital a pleasure to read.
On a recent trip, I visited a friend and colleague, Michael Samuels, on the island of Tinos in the Greek Mediteranean. Michael’s house is poised for flight—precipitously above a steep, terraced valley flowing down to the blue water. He built the house as a temple: donkeys carried 80 tons of sand and cement down 144 stone stairs to the site. Stones came from the land.
From Michael’s balcony, I counted 13 Venetian dovecotes. Six hundred are scattered around the island of Tinos in 41 villages. Doves are prized for meat, eggs, and fertilizer. Dovecotes must be built near water and cultivated areas—out of the wind so that baby doves can fly. They are works of art, embroidered with stone carvings. Venetians ruled Tinos for five century, from the fall of Constantinople in 1204 until 1715. Ottoman Turks ruled until 1821. Continue reading
Each year I come to Europe for the month of May. Work brings me here. Delight keeps me coming back, as well as curiosity about the human condition. Take personal and social risk tolerances in different cultures as an example. Continue reading
Robert McDermott is president emeritus of the California Institute of Integral Studies. His interests include wisdom philosophy, Hindu and Buddhist spiritualities, inclusive and esoteric Christianity, higher education, and Anthroposophy. We had a wonderful day-long conversation on February 7th at Commonweal. Continue reading