Goodbye, Mr. Hitchens. . .

You will be missed.

I woke this morning to the news that Christopher Hitchens had died after a long and painful struggle with esophageal cancer. A few days ago I set aside his last column for Vanity Fair to read later, a piece titled “Trial of the Will,” where he questioned the underlying validity and truth of the maxim commonly attributed to Nietzsche, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” It’s a touching peace, one written by someone coming to terms with the suffering that he’s had to endure, and the reality of an end that is coming all too soon. I suppose it was a good piece to be his last.

This morning, Vanity Fair had this to say,

Christopher Hitchens—the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant—died today at the age of 62. Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the spring of 2010, just after the publication of his memoir, Hitch-22, and began chemotherapy soon after. His matchless prose has appeared in Vanity Fair since 1992, when he was named contributing editor.

“Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic,” Hitchens wrote nearly a year ago in Vanity Fair, but his own final labors were anything but: in the last 12 months, he produced for this magazine a piece on U.S.-Pakistani relations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a portrait of Joan Didion, an essay on the Private Eye retrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a prediction about the future of democracy in Egypt, a meditation on the legacy of progressivism in Wisconsin, and a series of frankgraceful, and exquisitely written essays in which he chronicled the physical and spiritual effects of his disease. At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else—just as he had been for the last four decades.

“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends,” he wrote in the June 2011 issue. He died in their presence, too, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. May his 62 years of living, well, so livingly console the many of us who will miss him dearly.

So this morning I’d just like to say thank you to Mr. Hitchens for being a thinker, a rationalist, and a true heir of the Enlightenment. Thank you for promoting free-thought in an age of conformity, and for your intellectual fearlessness. I feel at a loss for words, since his words meant so much to me and to so many others. As stated so perfectly by rational warrior in a short tribute video, “Well done, Sir.”

To read other’s thoughts on the passing of this great man, read this touching series of obituaries from Richard Dawkins’ site. 

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14 thoughts on “Goodbye, Mr. Hitchens. . .

  1. Nice post. Thank you for bringing such a great personality, in front of people like me, who does not have much idea about him. Although it’s a shame that we do not know such a brilliant person.

    • You’re very welcome. He was one of those men that people either loved or hated. He could be incredibly aggressive about his ideas, and was certainly polemical. That being said, he was one of those people where were simply not afraid to think. That, in and of itself, is a great achievement.

  2. “You will be missed” indeed. I’ve always been a fan of Mr. Hitchens, and I think he further demonstrated all I loved and respected about him in the honorable way he went. He showed bravery and a selflessness (or as they eloquently put, a lack of solipsism). Especially when compared to so many who become self-absorbed during bouts with cancer (though I suppose I can see why). I remember reading “The Last Lecture”, written by a professor dying of cancer, and feeling ashamed to admit that it frustrated me — here was a man getting famous for his illness, and it all very seemed self-promoting. Sorry for the tangent. But Hitchens was a great and honorable man, who definitely bettered the world by existing, and he will be sorely missed.

    • Yes, he was doing really poorly as of late. So sad to watch him deteriorate, but the way he faced it was with incredible bravery. I don’t know if I could maintain that level of strength in an analogous situation.

  3. My 100-year old father (really!) loved Hitchens, and was always e-mailing me about something he had said or written. Yesterday he had e-mailed me to be sure and read Hitchens’ article in Vanity Fair. I read it on-line last night and also awoke this morning to the news of his death on NPR. I wondered if I was reading his very personal article as he might have been dying. The mind thinks of the oddest connections..

  4. Glad to see someone I follow posted about him! I never really liked reading much at school, but Hitchens’ fantastic opinions and eloquent style made me change my ways and I am of course more knowledgeable for it. A true role-model for free-thinkers.

  5. Thank you for posting this. He was aggressive about his thoughts, and yet so are others, so why did his understanding of the world deserve less of a voice. I am glad he gave his.

    • I am, too. He is so often criticized for being so “vocal” and so, as you said, aggressive, yet it never gets criticized when it comes from the other side. I’m glad he gave his side, as aggressive and combative as it sometimes was. And you have to admit, it was always a joy to watch him debate…

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