A while back, some small-minded people tried to put me down because of my involvement with ‘social media’. Someone even said, ‘Why are you so obsessed with social media?”
I am not some D-listed celebrity posting vacuous things like new handbags or fancy restaurants (so what if I am, don’t read if you don’t want to). I am a writer bursting with life, passion and fire. I have a good sense of humour. I enjoy writing. I am trying to be a novelist and my teacher tells me to write 500 words a day NOT on the topic of my novel.
I use social media as a means to propagate two things that I am very passionate about: A Culture of Kindness and An Attitude of Gratitude. These are in short supply in the world today. No wonder people are unhappy, bitter, scared, angry.
It seems that we have forgotten about the important things in life: we are so obsessed, so rushed in our lives, to be ‘successful’ humans that we have forgotten that we are human beings. Life is more than a computational or mechanistic existence but beauty, introspection and meaning, too. Literature is one of the ways into the depth of the human being. It fills your being with beauty and warmth.
Paul Kalanithi was a handsome, young and successful neurosurgeon. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away in March 2015. He did a surprising thing: he continued with his master’s degree in Literature and wrote a deep, thought-provoking and beautiful book When Breath Becomes Air.
“I had come to see language as an almost supernatural force, existing between people, bringing our brains, shielded in centimeter-thick skulls, into communion. A word meant something only between people, and life’s meaning, its virtue, had something to do with the depth of the relationships we form.”
How else would you love someone if you do not really know him or her? I am working on a novel, Catching Infinity, about a damaged young girl who was saved by a book she read. We can touch people and move them deeply with our words. I am humbled by the many emails and messages I received from people I never met to let me know that somehow, I made a difference to their lives. And it is for them that I write for.
The second point about writing: from this neurosurgeon who believed that there is a relationship between the spoken words and the physical body:
There must be a way, I thought, that the language of life as experienced — of passion, of hunger, of love — bore some relationship, however convoluted, to the language of neurons, digestive tracts, and heartbeats.
Yes. I should know. I was healed by one man’s beautiful, sincere and heartfelt words when expensive modern medicine failed me. Just as words can damage you, so too can they heal. So to those with ugliness and darkness in your hearts, do let good words into you. They often come with light, love and beauty.
More about Paul Kalanithi: