December 12, 2011

"Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger."

An old aphorism makes Christopher Hitchens skeptical.

43 comments:

themightypuck said...

People have know that for the lie it is for ages. It is a mantra to keep you going in dark times and occasionally it is true and that's good enough. By and large that which does't kill you makes you weaker and for most of us, that's life.

edutcher said...

Disagree with puck; unless you're really stupid, you learn from what doesn't kill you and you're a little harder to kill next time.

Writ Small said...

By God, Hitch can write.

bagoh20 said...

Is it just me, or is it a little suspicious that he would not realize this long ago. I suspect he just needed a subject to pull a bunch of disparate ideas together for a writing assignment. Chemo just sucks the energy and drive right out of you.

ndspinelli said...

I have always respected Hitch's intellect if not his positions on certain topics. Hitch is @ arguably the best venue for cancer treatment in the world. They prolonged my dear sisters life in her battle w/ leukemia, which she lost in August 2008. In my numerous visits to see my sister in 2007 and 2008 @ MD Anderson I came to respect not just the science, but the humanity of the people who work there. If you have a loved one battling cancer I encourage you to seek the best, and MD Anderson is just that

Jason (the commenter) said...

The thing is, that's not the entire quote, just the last half of it. It's taken out of context.

In context you can see it's presented as illustrative of how military people think and not necessarily something Nietzsche endorses.

ricpic said...

Just like Althouse, Hitch references that great sage, Robert Zimmerman. Deep, man, real deep.

rcocean said...

I found this a little pathetic. Why is Hitchens writing this stuff? The man's dying and he's writing cheap magazine articles. Good grief, I've heard College Sophomores with a better understanding of Nietzsche.

I always found him shallow and his illness hasn't given him any new depth.

ndspinelli said...

Well, maybe I'm stupid. But although I often disagree w/ Hitch, he's pretty fucking smart. Full of himself, absolutely! Alcoholic..well duh. An asshole, you bet. But he's an intellectual dynamo.

J said...

After 30 years of Tanqueray and pall malls, the bio-system's likely to have issues. Undiscovered country time, laddy

rcocean said...

Yeah, Hitchens' is 'Very Smart' in a way. He came to this country as an unemployed Troskyite, then figured out what the people who read "Vanity Fair", "Vogue", etc want to hear and gave it to them. He's kinda of a 3rd rate English Mencken with a dash of fashionable elite leftism - hold the antisemitism.

And he's probably a millionaire several times over. So yeah he's "very smart".

J said...

He's kinda of a 3rd rate English Mencken

As opposed to like a 5th rated Bruce Catton and Nixonite. Unlike Mencken CH graduated from Oxford

SunnyJ said...

This is just an expression of the mechanics of the universe...as seen in the natural autoimmune respone to attacks...that which does not kills us...makes us stronger thru immunity. It's why vaccines work, why exposure to chicken pox when we are young keeps it locked out or at least milder when exposed later on in life. It's neuroscience speak for for plastisity and regeneration of function. It's scar tissue.

It's just the physics of life all around us when we finally become aware and can put language to it.

J said...

Anyone who says "it's just.." about either Nietzsche or...Death doesn't understand either.

rcocean said...
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rcocean said...

"J" is Christopher Hitchen's target audience.

m stone said...

By God, Hitch can write.

Destined for God, but unfulfilled. Yet.

And, yes, the epigram is foolish, but we'll all default to it when the time comes in time of consolation.

mythusmage said...

That which does not kill me could leave me in a persistent vegetative state.

ndspinelli said...

I didn't know he drinks Tanqueray, I would have tabbed him as a Beefeaters man.

J said...

That's Hitchens' Catton-xtra lite. In fact, he's not--I objected to his pro-Bush views in 03-04-- but I doubt you have read more than a paragraph of his Humean-esque writing. Stick to the Civil War battlefield videos, pops

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
glenn said...

It's an Anglo-Saxon play on the Italian proverb "What doesn't kill you fattens you" Leave it to the Italians to make a meaningful proverb all about food.


And poison

J said...

Nein, Glenn-byro-LDS troll. Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker. German. Nietzsche wrote it. Maybe take a day or two to read the essay--your first by Hitchens! Unlikely.

DADvocate said...

Disagree with edutcher; sometimes it's just useless suffering. Sometimes you live but suffer permanent injury.

rhhardin said...

Drugs are a janus term, carrying opposites across any boundary.

Pharmakon

Bill said...

Alternate version:
"Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stranger."

Psychedelic George said...

It had been a bad day. On parade, an announcement had been made about the many actions that would, from then on, be regarded as sabotage and therefore punishable by immediate death by hanging. Among these were crimes such as cutting small strips from our old blankets....

Encouragement was now more necessary than ever. I began by mentioning the most trivial of comforts first....Whoever was still alive had reason to hope. Health, family, happiness, professional abilities, fortune, position in society--all these were things that could be achieved again or restored....Whatever we had gone through could still be an asset to us in the future. And I quoted from Nietzsche: Was mich nicht umbringt, mach mich starker. (That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.)

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl

jamboree said...

I am a total and complete wuss when it come to death and always have been since the realization of my mortality first hit me around 3 years old. I have looked around since then every so often and it seems that everyone else was perfectly fine with it except for me - the occasional malcontent, but more or less.

Around 25 my life turned into an incredible dream for a short period and I began to get giddy that maybe life was actually worth it after all, but my horror was renewed the first time I saw someone die a year or two later.

It's not worth it, folks, in my humble opinion.

David said...

My wife had cancer. It killed her. Before she died she was not getting stronger.

She reserved a special contempt for the "whatever doesn't kill me" crowd. She went through three partial remissions before she died. Each left her weaker than before.

William said...

The Romans found crucifixion the most exquisite form of torture. A person's will to live was turned against him. He kept pushing and heaving against the nails and the weight of his own body to take one last breath. The condemned person was undoubtedly aware that his situation was hopeless and that his struggle to take another breath only served to prolong the pain.....End game with many diseases--and not just cancer--are a refined, civilized form of crucifixion.

Psychedelic George said...

Jamboree--

Own your suffering. Do not disappoint those who love you.

Life is worth the struggle. Be strong. You can do it. Be the party, Jamboree.

William said...

It's a young person's proverb, and it makes perfect sense for the weight bearing fractures and dislocations a young person suffers. Perhaps the analogy is to resistence exercises. Working out with appropriate weights will make you stronger, but who gets to spend a lifetime woring out only with appropriate weights? The various millstones I've been festooned with have pershaps given me a strong back, but it's as deformed Quasimodo's and hurts when I try to stand up straight.

Whatever Works said...

Here’s some bullshit middlebrow philosophy. 'That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger.' I’ve got something a little more realistic: 'That which doesn't kill me still may sever my spinal cord, crush my rib cage, cave in my skull, and leave me helpless and paralyzed, soaking in a puddle of my own waste.' Put that on your T-shirt, touchy-feely, New Age asshole!"

-- George Carlin

sydney said...

It is more of a psychological truism than a physiological one. But it is probably harder for an atheist to grasp since he would believe that his psyche dies with his body and so is not made stronger by a suffering death. At any rate, that which Christopher Hitchens has is killing him. His chemotherapy isn't changing that, only delaying it. So, the saying doesn't really apply to him, does it?

The Crack Emcee said...

Being surrounded by beliefs is trying to kill me, and no, I don't feel stronger for it. I feel trapped.

I consider putting a gun in my mouth several times a day, but I know better - life is precious and I'm lucky to experience it - but, still, there's the weight.

I've lost, pretty much, everything that's important to me, and what's left seems to get further away as I strive to regain it. All over beliefs.

Beliefs are funny things. You can change them, as Tony Blair's sister did - going from Catholic to Muslim - or as Newt claims he did, now that he's into being a Catholic again. What people who hold beliefs can't seem to be, which I was born as, is someone with no beliefs. They'd rather destroy the world than do that. They'll definitely destroy people. And the rest of you accept it. Why, I don't know, but I can't. It's just a malevolent form of delusion to me.

I've faced death too often to bullshit about it. My own and others. I've seen it happen fast and slow. Fast is better. Violent or not doesn't make a difference, except in the moment.

Hitchens is a good writer. I met him once, outside of a bookstore, and he bummed a smoke off me. We talked, and we enjoyed it so much he gave me one of his books, autographed.

Since my divorce, I don't know what to make of any of it, except for the cruelty. I remember once, before my divorce, I made an entire freeway of cars stop while I tended to a dog that I'd seen get hit twice. His eyes were so sad. Today I'd take an exit, double back, and put him out of his misery.

We should all be so lucky.

reformed trucker said...

"Anyone who says "it's just" about Nietzsche or death doesn't understand either." - J

Sometimes I think you can be a douchenozzle, but comments like that make me eliminate the charge of lack of depth in thought...

reformed trucker said...

To hear Hitch make comments like that grieve me; that close to death and he still misses the point. May his eyes be opened...

I actually like Hitch (for an atheist). He went on a debate tour with Wilson (he's not an illogical pussy like Dawkins).

reformed trucker said...

"I consider putting a gun in my mouth several times a day...." - crack

It's sad that you would even think that way... I blame a flawed worldview...

"I met him once, outside of a bookstore, and he bummed a smoke off of me. We talked, and we enjoyed it so much he gave me one of his books, autographed."

You're lucky...

Don't Tread 2012 said...

He is a stubborn old coot isn't he...he has always struck me as someone who takes things very seriously, maybe too seriously.

Trial by fire is a tempering force, I think that's all it means. The inevitability of death and what doesn't kill you are 2 different things.

Jim S. said...

Ha! I noticed that years ago.

The Crack Emcee said...

reformed trucker,

It's sad that you would even think that way... I blame a flawed worldview...

Sure, fraud is rampant while the rest of you are joining diabolical cults (which are everywhere) getting on your knees to a guy who (you say) walked on water, wearing magic underwear because a convicted fraud claims he found some plates in the ground, taking your marching orders from a black woman on TV with a weight problem (and a guardian angel) indulging in all manner of deceitful quackery, and who knows what else.

But I have a flawed world view.

I'd talk to you about it, but - somehow - I don't think you'll get it,...

Methadras said...

It's a bullshit statement to make to begin with. I hear it all the time and I lament its usage. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger? Really? You didn't, you didn't get killed by something, therefore you think that you are made stronger by not dying? How do you make that connection?

Methadras said...

Furthermore, life in general is a subtractive act. Not being killed by something, means that you've expended a fair amount of energy in staving it off. Energy that you clearly have used up, hence making you that much weaker, not stronger.