Atul Gawande – American surgeon, writer, public health researcher, and best-selling author – will change the way you think about the end of your life, and death. His book Being Mortal (2014) examines the topic we willfully avoid, prompting an examination of what makes life worth living.
In Gawande’s words: In 1908, a Harvard philosopher named Josiah Royce wrote a book with the title The Philosophy of Loyalty. Royce was not concerned with the trials of aging. But he was concerned with a puzzle that is fundamental to anyone contemplating his or her mortality. Royce wanted to understand why simply existing – why being merely housed and fed and safe and alive – seems empty and meaningless. What more is it that we need to feel that life is worthwhile?
The answer, he believed, is that we all seek a cause beyond ourselves. This was, to him, an intrinsic human need. The cause could be large (family, country, principle) or small (a building project, the care of a pet). The important thing was that, in ascribing value to the cause and seeing it as worth making sacrifices for, we give our lives meaning.