First, do no harm: Finding Meaning in The Fault in Our Stars

A little late to the party with reading this one but John Green’s best seller of 2012 is enough of a good book to get excited about off trend. The tale of terminally ill cancer patients Hazel and Augustus is more than just a love story. It is a story about how to face death and what to make of life. We might expect teenagers to grapple with the question of the purpose of life – I certainly did – but the question of how to face death is one that most teenagers wont find themselves spending too much time on. You remember, don’t you? When life stretched out ahead of you – the future, a seeming forever? Not so for Hazel and Augustus. They don’t know the exact day of their ending but they know it’s soon. They know they will not get old, not have children, that they will leave their parents missing a crucial part of their happiness. But Hazel finds meaning not in the call to perform some heroic act of charity or superhuman strength like many suffering from cancer do. She is not driven to leave some legacy to be remembered by, unlike Augustus. She finds her meaning in the everyday. Observations of the natural world and how we humans fit in to it. Noticing the universe that seemingly needs to be noticed and seeing her place in it as just that. In it. Not the other way around. An insight that perhaps only someone who has nature set against her in the most unsolicited of ways – more than once she describes her self as her cancer and ‘ a mutation’. She is evolution in action. There is, arguably, no harder way to learn the lesson of life than to know this by experience.

Anyone wrestling with an illness should read this book. It’ll banish self-pity and if it’s not already been entered – open a door to a new kind of strength via an acceptance of what cannot be altered. It is also a book for anyone who is wrestling with someone they love with an illness or may have one themselves one day [yep so that’s everyone].

I may have a look at the film – but I wont go out of my way. The book of course says everything the story needs to. And I expect the film will only subtract not add to the experience.


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