Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, R. I. P.

Last night Christopher Hitchens bid us all adieu.

A modern version of what used to be called a man of letters, Hitchens was a public intellectual of the first order.

An irascible wit, a brawling iconoclast, a master of the irreverent, Hitchens was that rare brilliant writer who could gather a very large audience indeed. 

Hitchens was the custodian of an extraordinary innate talent. By all reports, he often seemed to be trying to extinguish it.

Yet, for all his legendary indulgences his productivity was almost superhuman.

We will never know whether better habits would have killed his inspiration, but we do know that his bad habits destroyed his health.

He knew he was taking a risk. And he must have considered that it was a risk worth taking. Duty to his talent seemed to count for more than duty to his corporeal envelope.

Hitchens he lived as he chose to live. He did what he thought he had to do to nourish his talent. And he died as he wished to die, without self-pity, writing to the end.

We do not know where Hitchens is now. Had anyone asked him he would have scowled at the idea of an afterlife and declared that his and everyone else’s final destination was: nowhere.

But, for all any of us know, nowhere might really be somewhere.

As we the living mourn our loss Hitchens has embarked on his final journey. It might be that he has just recently arrived at a place he insisted could not possibly exist. As we are reminiscing about mulling over his courageous and outrageous opinions, he might be discovering that one of his most cherished beliefs was wrong.

I like to think that he will accept defeat graciously and that his acceptance will allow him to revel in benefits he spent his life disparaging. Stranger things have happened.

Those who would like to sample some vintage Hitchens should turn to the page that Vanity Fair has dedicated to his memory.

And there is another collection on the site Byliner.

All of it is well worth a read.

1 comment:

n.n said...

Individuals of integrity should acknowledge what they know, don't know, and are incapable of knowing.

Hitchens, as others, will have their faith judged by the principles it engenders.

Without knowledge of this man, that his life and death welcomes positive feedback from his supporters, as well as competing interests, would suggest that his principles were, in some fashion, the correct ones.

If that is true, then R.I.P.