When I picked up “No Cure for Being Human” I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. I just knew that I felt I intimately knew the author, Kate Bowler, from reading her previous book “Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved.” I have to admit I also looked up her podcast and checked to make sure she is okay. Something about reading her work made me feel like she is a friend that I need to have around. Maybe it’s her honesty. Kate Bowler is willing to say the things many people are probably thinking. Even though I often do not agree with what she says, I find it refreshing that she says them. Does that make sense?
This book was a self-help book that put a critical eye on the self-help industry. I found it both beautiful and terrible at times, just like life.
As another Memoir style book of Kate Bowler’s life, the plot follows her experience of living with a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. However, this book was written a few years after the original shock of the diagnosis and offers a little bit more distance between the initial blow and where the author is now.
It’s a story of being human when you are given a terminal diagnosis, and then beat the odds and live. When it comes to being human, there are no shortcuts and no easy fixes for the problems you might come up against. The self-help industry can make you feel worse instead of better if you let it. Though maybe my view of self-help is a little less fatalistic than hers, I can understand where she is coming from.
She does offer beautiful insights, complex philosophy, and a lot of existential questions about life which add to the story and force the reader to face some uncomfortable truths. Her religious research and personal views offer a sturdy scaffolding for her to build her beliefs around. The truth is, if you are someone who might face death someday, this book could be a useful read.
“We live and we are loved and we are gone.” Well, this one is a bit obvious to me, but I went over that when I reviewed her previous book so I won’t rehash it now.
“Good vibes are big business.” There was also an overarching theme about the self-help industry and our obsession with living our best lives. She was quite critical of this culture. At first, I found that hard to swallow, as a life coach that is constantly telling my clients, you can do whatever you really want to do. You have the power to choose, but you have to know yourself well enough to listen to the parts of you that don’t want what you say you want. Once you get all of the parts in agreement, then you can have anything. This is actually part of being human.
But I understand for someone with a terminal diagnosis, this sounds absurd. What they want on the surface may not match what’s underneath and they don’t have time to figure it out. Perhaps it’s even too painful to admit what they really want.
My Thoughts on Being Human
I won’t pretend to know what is inside Kate Bowler’s head, but some of the things she said made me wonder if he had spoken to a coach or a psychologist if she could have experienced less emotional stress and anxiety. Our lives are basically how we experience them. No one has it better or worse than anyone else. We all have “our cross to bear” as they said in my catholic family.
While Kate Bowler’s diagnosis was tough, she was not the first to experience it. If you look at someone like Nelson Mandela or Victor Frankl, they were put in horrendous circumstances but found peace inside their own minds to go on and change the world with what they truly believed in.
Maybe Kate is doing the same thing in her own way. She has published these books and made a podcast all based on this harrowing experience yet when asked if she would go back to before, she still says yes. She would rather be in the before. That is really hard for me to grasp. I don’t mean to sound insensitive, though I am aware that is exactly how I’m feeling about the situation Kate found herself in.
Problems are a part of being human. I think the goal for me is to keep having better problems. Sure facing death isn’t a favorite one that I want to go up against, but we all will someday in one way or another. Facing our own fear of death is inevitable. Our brains are wired for survival. And at the same time we all know no one lives forever. I guess that is why Kate Bowler says, “Life takes courage and ending life takes even more courage…. I guess life is going to need more courage than I thought.”
“It’s so weird that working so hard to stay alive makes you feel less human.”
“Time really is a circle; I can see that now. We are trapped between a past we can’t return to and a future that is uncertain. And it takes guts to live here. in the hard space between anticipation and realization.”
“I am asked all the time to say that, given what I’ve gained in perspective, I would never go back. Who would want to know the truth? Before was better.”
“Everyone pretends that you only die once. But that’s not true. You can die to a thousand possible futures in the course of a single, stupid life.”
“If you want progress, take up running. If you want meaning, run a church.”
“It’s easy to imagine letting go when we forget that choices are luxuries, allowing us to maintain our illusion of control. But until those choices are plucked from our hands—someone dies, someone leaves, something breaks—we are only playing at surrender.”
“And I didn’t know how to say the future was like a language I couldn’t speak anymore.”
“Everybody pretends that you only die once. But that’s not true. You can die to a thousand possible futures in the course of a single, stupid life.”