Cultivating Consciousness

MORTALITY

Image credit: The New Yorker

Image credit: The New Yorker

My Last Day as a Surgeon
by Paul Kalanithi
The New Yorker
 
 

"I was neither angry nor scared. It simply was. It was a fact about the world, like the distance from the sun to the Earth." - Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

Neurosurgical resident Dr. Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic lung cancer in May of 2013; he died nearly 2 years later, at the age of 36. During those two years, he continued his medical training, became the father to a baby girl, and wrote about his experience, as described in this month's New Yorker, "[of] facing mortality as a doctor and a patient." The New Yorker published an excerpt from his posthumously published memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, about his last day as a surgeon and the awareness of his growing tumors. A powerful reminder of the fragility of life.

MYSTERY

Image credit: Atlantic Magazine

Image credit: Atlantic Magazine

Consciousness Is Not Mysterious
by Michael Graziano
Atlantic Magazine


"The hard problem of our own time is the mystery of consciousness." So writes Michael Graziano in this month's Atlantic Magazine. He is quick, however, to specify what he means by consciousness, reflecting that, while it isn't difficult to understand how the brain can process information about the world (i.e., memories, self knowledge, mortality), the mystery is how we actually get to that point. He asks, "How do we get the inner feeling? And what is that inner feeling anyway? It’s been called awareness, phenomenology, qualia, experience. It seems non-physical, ethereal, more like an energy than a substance, by definition private and therefore not objectively testable. And the fact that it seems like anything at all is the thing itself—the seeming." He posits that consciousness doesn't actually happen, and that it is a mistaken construct, going on to further argue that rather than being studied as a philosophy, opinion, or religion, consciousness should be studied as a hard science. Do you agree? What sorts of questions does this raise for you and how your understand consciousness? 

TESTIMONY

Image credit: The New York Public Library

Image credit: The New York Public Library

Want to Be an Outstanding Leader? Keep a Journal
by Nancy J. Adler
Harvard Business Review


The world is complex and often requires time for reflection if we want to gain insight into ourselves. But how much time do we actually allocate to reflection in our daily lives? How does that correlate with our ability to be effective leaders? Nancy J. Adler, a professor of business management at McGill University, writes in this month’s Harvard Business Review: “Extraordinary leadership is rooted in several capabilities: seeing before others see, understanding before others understand, and acting before others act. A leader’s unique perspective is an important source of creativity and competitive advantage. But the reality is that most of us live such fast-paced, frenzied lives that we fail to leave time to actually listen to ourselves.” One place to start, suggests Professor Adler, is committing to reflecting on a daily basis through regularly writing in a journal. A good reminder, she lists other suggestions for the process as well. “No matter what question you start with, let your reflection take you on a journey where you are the passenger, not the conductor. Using a journal regularly will give you the courage to see the world differently, to understand the world differently, and to lead in new and needed ways.”