August 17, 2010

"I think all the time I've felt that life is a wager, and that I was probably getting more out of leading a bohemian existence, as a writer, than I would have if I didn't."

"Writing is what's important to me and anything that helps me do that — or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation — is worth it to me, sure."

At this point, it's best not to have regrets.

(The whole show is here.)

AND: Andrew Sullivan says:
Hitch is dying as he lives, with integrity and passion. And since we all die in the end, alone, it is an impertinence even to enter this zone of another's last things. But for me, the human being, for good and ill, is more than reason. Reason must govern us, but it cannot explain us.



We live alone in a universe so vaster than we are and with an expiration date that defies our own attempts to understand it. We are wired to fear death and suffering, and in the spiritual transcendence of death and suffering we exercise our greatest humanity. The moments I have felt closest to God have been when I have been stripped of every security, the moments when I have felt no human love, known no safe home, witnessed unspeakable cruelty - and was rescued by nothing but His ineffable, boundless and yet intimate caritas.

This is not an argument, I know. It can easily be dismissed as wish fulfilment. All I can say is: this is not how I experienced these moments. They were real. In suffering I have felt and known God reach into my life and grab me by the scruff of my neck and shake me with the brusque affection of a father's compassion.

I know Christopher feels none of this, has never felt any of this, which puzzles but does not vex me. Friendship, in the end, is about the lack of any desire to change another person.

It is about loving him as he is. And in that love there is the only human redemption and, in my view, the true intimation of the divine.

45 comments:

Martha said...

Hitch is sitting for so many interviews that he will soon (and may have already) run out of newsworthy material. He has NO regrets. He will have no deathbed conversion and if any such thing is reported it is false.

His illness is tragic.
Watching him explain himself and his prognosis is painful.

Irene said...

"pre-mortem"

Graham Powell said...

I disagree with lots and lots of what Sullivan has to say (and Hitchens, for that matter), but this was very nice of him.

rcocean said...

I find his "cancer tour" a little distasteful and exhibitionist (whatever happened to WASP dignity and class?).

But I applaud the sentiment about drinking and smoking. Lots of people like fatty foods, drinks, and a smoke - they know the risks, and are willing to take the gamble. Sometimes, like Hitch you lose, and you die at 62 instead of 72 or 82. But that's the breaks. Quality over Quantity.

Carol said...

He's made such a big, public point of being an atheist he has to stick by it now. He seems like he is focused on going without a deathbed conversion.

The Church calls that Pride.

rhhardin said...

Watch out for soaring prose and low flying airplanes.

HT said...

But I applaud the sentiment about drinking and smoking. Lots of people like fatty foods, drinks, and a smoke - they know the risks, and are willing to take the gamble. Sometimes, like Hitch you lose, and you die at 62 instead of 72 or 82. But that's the breaks. Quality over Quantity.

But Hitchens was kind of bragging that his "strong constitution" allowed him to drink and carry on as he has. He said he supposes someone with a weaker constitution would have been healthier and taken better care of himself. It made sense for about 10 good seconds before I realized that he hadn't really thought it all the way through.

edutcher said...

He sounds as if he's trying to justify how he would not have been as great if he'd done it differently.

Sounds like he's trying to convince himself.

PS Irene, hope you saw my note the other day. Know that you have a lot of friends here.

lucid said...
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Irene said...

As Nureyev said, "Any time you dance, what you do must be sprayed with your blood."

PS edutcher, I did, and thank you!

I thought if I responded on the other thread, then the comment might get "lost." Haha.

lucid said...

Everything that Sullivan says after his first line of praise for Hitchens is well-written but meaningless nonesense.

It is impertinence to enter into another's last things? Being with others at the end is the most powerful and soothing form of grace that we can find.

Reason must govern us but cannot explain us? Just the opposite: Reason does not and cannot govern us, but it can give the best possible explanations of our lives and of reason's own limitations.

There is an inanity to so much of what Sullivan writes, like his obsessions about Palin's uterus. He is in love with his own shallow thoughts.

rcocean said...

Great?

Let's not forget Hitch and Sully weren't smart enough to make it on Fleet Street, they had come over to Yankeeland to make a living.

In the USA having an Oxbridge accent adds 15 IQ points.

ricpic said...

Why did Hitchens advocate cradle to grave state protection for others if life is a wager and living it as such made it richer for him? Hint: it has to do with respect, the lack thereof for others.

J said...

Sullivan's sentimental prissy schtick even outperforms HitchensSpeak on the Oxbridge nausea-o-meter

lucid said...

@J

Yeah, every time I read something Sullivan has written, my bullshit detector runs right off the scale.

Kirstin said...

Did Dominick Dunne give a last round of interviews like this?

DADvocate said...

Reason must govern us, but it cannot explain us.

Lucid touched on this, but reason neither governs or explains us. The more reason tries to explain us, the more the explanation gets twisted and circular. While we are capable of reason, emotion and irrationality motivate us more than reason could ever wish to.

Lem said...

For all his talk of God and "His ineffable, boundless and yet intimate caritas", I cant help think this is a gotcha moment for Sully.

Sully might as well dance on his grave.

Revenant said...

Reason must govern us, but it cannot explain us.

Andrew Sullivan is, perhaps, not the right person to ask what reason is or is not capable of.

traditionalguy said...

If you haven't watched the Charlie Rose interview yet, then you have missed out on a great performance from Hitch. He is humble about nearly everything and really has the best Point of view on life and death that I have heard. But he is still afraid to trust the love of God. Jesus may need to make him a personal visit.

Greg Hlatky said...

Andrew who? Never heard of the guy.

Scott said...

I fail to see why Christopher Hitchens' impending demise is more precious or more tragic than those of the some 550,000 souls who succumb to cancer every year in the United States.

Hitchens is a good writer and an interesting self-styled public intellectual (unlike Sullivan on both counts), but as they say, he ain't all that.

Indeed, he's no Mother Theresa.

wv: faust

DieseGedanken said...

This is very disappointing!
The name Andrew Sullivan has been mentioned and we're not having a discussion on the dangers of AIDS dementia?

BOOOORING!!

Lem? Anyone?

As if the content of this blogpost could stop us, right? ;)

Ken Pidcock said...

Indeed, he's no Mother Theresa.

Indeed, he isn't. And may I go to my grave knowing as much.

rcocean said...

Mother Teresa vs. Hitch.

10 years from now MT will still be remembered as a Saint, and Hitch will be forgotten. The sad fact is that - like Sully - he never wrote anything truly memorable or lasting. Just a lot of magazine articles and TV appearances.

Fred4Pres said...

I only wish the best for Christopher Hitchens. I want him to be well and happy and to stick around. I think he is a good egg.

I know the odds are against him. But I hope and pray for a miracle.

Fred4Pres said...

Andrew Sullivan lost me with his vicious attacks on Sarah Palin over Trig's birth. But I agree with him on issues and one of them is Hitchens.

Michael Haz said...
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Wally Kalbacken said...

Yawn.

deborah said...

I think Hitch would find Sully's tribute unbearably tedious, if he could bring himself to even read it.

AST said...

To me, atheism is tragic. Hitchens' faith in it is doubly so. If he's right, none of his life's work has any more significance than a spark going up a chimney.

I like him for all of his being so curmudgeonly and will miss his commentary and wonderful writing and discourse. And because his death would otherwise be such a monstrous waste, contrary to the laws of conservation of information, I refuse to believe that death is anything more than a phase shift for the intelligence within us. I hope he's astonished to find himself out of his body and furious at having to account for the experience.

Revenant said...

If he's right, none of his life's work has any more significance than a spark going up a chimney.

According to rcocean, that's true even if he was wrong.

Really, though, why does there need to be an afterlife for a life to have meaning? Do you need a second marriage to give your first marriage meaning?

LoafingOaf said...

What's up with Charlie Rose wearing shiny dress shoe loafers without socks? That looks fucking stupid!

I like Hitch, but I have to say I hope Hitch-22 is not his final work. I've been reading bits and pieces of it and I find it pretty boring, and he comes of as really pompous in it. I guess I also hadn't realized just how far on the left he used to be (since I came in on Hitch around the time he was bashing Clinton). He used to be hanging out in Cuba and hoping for, and trying to work for, the complete destruction of capitalism. Capitalism has been, arguably, the most positive force in the history of humanity!

I thought his book on Thomas Jefferson was excellent.

LoafingOaf said...

The best book by Hitchens, though, is called Unacknowledged Legislation, which compiles a lot of his literary reviews from The Atlantic. I especially like his piece in there on Oscar Wilde.

The thing is, though, as recently as his book "Letters to a Young Contrarian" he was speaking of Noam Chomsky in the most glowing way. I guess I can understand taking big shifts i politics, as I have been all over the place myself. Hitchens will try and say his princinples are consistant, but I don't know about that. I think he, like most of us, can get easily sucked into this or that, just like people get sucked into religion. He got sucked into the Chomsky left, then got sucked into the Neoconservativism. I do appreciate that he never pulled an Andrew Sullivan and totally betrayed the war he once backed the moment the going got tough, but he does have a tendency to get too sucked into movements. I think that's similar to how people get sucked into religion. Hitchens used to be a communist, which is very similar to religion.

John Lynch said...

It feels like we are losing George Orwell again.

John Lynch said...

LO-

Communism is a religion.

LarsPorsena said...

"...And since we all die in the end, alone, it is an impertinence even to enter this zone of another's last things..."

Humbug! This is a well attended death. There have been so many interviews that Hitch's room conjures up images of a modern version of David's 'Death of Socrates'.

ndspinelli said...

For whatever one thinks of Hitch, he does have integrity. Andrew Sullivan lost whatever integrity he had when he started his mean spirited assault on Palin. Now, Palin is a clown for sure; but Sullivan's attacks actually elevate her.

Scott M said...

We live alone in a universe so vaster than we are and with an expiration date that defies our own attempts to understand it.

...and this guy writes professionally?

Drew said...

"And since we all die in the end, alone, it is an impertinence even to enter this zone of another's last things."

That probably sounded better in his head than it does written down where all the world can take it apart with a fork and a spoon.

jr565 said...

Andrew Sullivan believes in Reason, but a Reason of Doubt (just as he believes in conservativism of doubt). So he doubts that facts are facts and is distrustful of the whole enterprise.
If he settles on a fact too long that triggers his doubt and he must therefore change his position, so as to not become calcified by false reason. Though is his new Reason actually based on reason? He has his doubts.

I blame it on his sleep apnea machine. Way back around 2004 he started talking about how his sleep apnea machine worked wonders on his abilty tto get a good nights sleep. Since then, he has driven ever more off the cliff. It's a cautionary tale. Sleep apnea machines could turn your brain to mush.

Scott M said...

We live alone in a universe so vaster than we are and with an expiration date that defies our own attempts to understand it.

This is really bugging me like a song I can't get out of my head. Like said song, the only way to excise it is to sing through it or, in this case, fix the damned thing.

How about-

We live alone in a universe vast beyond our understanding, existing with an expiration date that defies our attempts at comprehension.

Less clunky?

Oligonicella said...

Carol --

"He's made such a big, public point of being an atheist he has to stick by it now."

Like how the Pope has to stick it out because he gave all those Catholic speeches?

Night2night said...

Well yes it is sentiment, but it hits the right chords for me on an emotional level (which is probably why it's wrong for a number of you). Still it reminds me of the the end of "Blade Runner" when the replicant "Roy" saves his nemesis "Deckard" as the last action of his life.

If grace is undeserved love, that sentiment, particularly as we stand at the edge of the abyss, may be the only thing which makes life bearable and a thing of light.

Night2night said...
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