Action. Understanding. Which word attracts you more? That sounds like a query posed by a personality test, but it’s actually the question I was asking myself after reading an interview with the surgeon Atul Gawande regarding his new book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.
I fall in the latter’s camp, leaning toward understanding, a prerequisite to action. But sometimes I feel alone in this tent, especially these days when the impulse to do, make, and produce seems paramount.
In the interview, Gawande was asked what books influenced his decision to become a doctor and his approach to medicine. His list was long, including playwrights, poets, and novelists from Chekhov to Keats to Percy: “They’re just writers, telling us about the experience of being human.”
His reflections on the power of literature to help us realize our purpose, to make sense of our feelings, to connect…
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