Paul Kalanithi ‘when Breath Becomes Air’ Vs. Viktor Frankl’s ‘man’s Search for Meaning’

June 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

When Breath becomes Air and Mans Search for Meaning have many different ideas associated with suffering. While reading these books, you may start to compare and contrast different ideas and may have stronger opinions towards one idea than another., I believe that through suffering, it is important to remember religion to make our life significant. Through suffering, religion can be used to find meaning in the experience.

In When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalantithi has the idea that it is not what causes the suffering or how to get through the suffering, it is what we do to give our life meaning. He states, “I had to face my mortality and try to understand what made my life worth living” (Kalantithi 139). Suffering is not what we should focus on, especially during hardships. The important thing to focus on is what makes us happy and makes our life worth it. Without making our lives meaningful and doing what we really enjoy in life, is it even worth the suffering? Throughout his book, he mentions several times that sometimes the “right” decision is not always the best decision. He explains people on ventilators and how they will never be able to experience life as they once had. Without some of these opportunities that put meaning into our lives, they are not always worth the suffering that we go through. Man’s Search for Meaning takes a different approach to suffering. Viktor E. Frankl believes that we as humans have to go through suffering countless times in able to find meaning in our lives. He believes that we will not always find our meaning at the end of our life if we did not go through enough suffering. Victor Frankl shows this idea through his book stating, “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering” (Frankl 76). This shows that there is meaning in everything, even suffering. Just because suffering puts strain on us as people, does not mean that we will not learn a powerful message from it.

Although Paul Kalantihi and Vicktor Frankl may have many differences within their texts, there are similarities as well. In their books, both men believe that you can hear about several different experiences that people have gone through, but without going through them yourself, you do not understand how emotionally conflicting they can be. For example, Victor Frankl writes, “Those who have not gone through a similar experience can hardly conceive of the soul-destroying mental conflict and clashes of will power which a famished man experiences” (Frankl 43). This is very true for both Kalanithi and Frankl. Frankl had gone through the holocaust and had lost numerous family members through the tragedy. Kalantihi was diagnosed with terminal cancer while finishing up his residency to be a doctor. He left behind a wife and an eight-month old baby. These situations, especially, would be extremely difficult to relate to. Many of us have lost a family member to cancer, or has heard a story of someone surviving the holocaust. Do we really understand what it feels like to be suffering in their situation?

Religion also plays a huge role in suffering. As many people may not consider themselves religious, most of us turn to religion when we need help the most. During suffering, some people may ask for healing and strength, and some may pray to have their sins forgiven. Regardless of many ideas, religion can scientifically help suffering. In the article, Spiritual/Religious Needs of Adolescents with Cancer, it was scientifically proven that religion can help patients with cancer find meaning to their lives and can prevent diseases associated with their cancer. The article stated that when adolescents were suffering through a dramatic stage of their life, they were in need of many different themes. It states, “They were in need for a relationship with God; the need for a relationship with the self; the need for a relationship with others; and the need for a relationship with the environment and nature” (Amidah 13). I feel as though religion gave these patients a sense of hope and a sense of belonging. By tying themselves to religion, and engaging themselves with “religious” people, it helped them find their place and their meaning. [1]

There is another scientific article that states that suicidal patients that turn to religion as a sense of purpose, dramatically decreases depressive symptoms and increases life quality for the patient. In Sense of Purpose in Life and Escape from Self as the Predictors of Quality of life in Clinical Samples, it states that patients who go through suffering, such as suicide attempts, are more likely to turn to religion for help. For these patients, they are more than likely to find their meaning in life and have overall happiness compared to people who have never found religion to begin with. The article states, “The ability to maintain the feeling of sense of one’s existence seems to be a significant factor that protects from a decrease inlife quality and keeps the feeling of being able to deal in difficult situations, as well as helps to accept depression symptoms” (Magdalena 517).

Everyone expresses religion differently, but that does not mean that it will affect our ability to find our meaning.. From these books and articles, it shows that we find our meaning through the amount of suffering that we endure. Religion may be a big factor and give people a sense of meaning and belonging, but we can find our meaning through other sources. It is not all the suffering that we have gone through, but it is if we have found our meaning at the end of it.

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