Hitchens

The great voice is stilled; the great mind is now an inert collection of molecules.  Hitchens was a huge influence on most of us, and yes, some people are irreplaceable.

Let us by all means mourn him, but we should celebrate his life in the way he did himself: go on with business as usual as long as we can, enjoy the short span that is given us, and keep fighting the good fight.

Richard Dawkins is collecting all the memorials and obituaries of Hitchens; you can find them here.

39 Comments

  1. Allen Tawanda
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    This is a sad loss. The pain is lessened by the memories of this great fighter and orator’s work. RIP

  2. moleatthecounter
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    And the world’s IQ is a couple of points lower today, and a much poorer place in which to be.

  3. David Leech
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    I keep listening to it’s a wonderful world while thinking of Christopher.

  4. Krishan Bhattacharya
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    I tried to say it in the previous thread, but I’ll say it again anyway

    Over the next week, we will all be thinking about the Hitch and about how he changed the way we think. No thinking person could encounter his writing and speaking and come away unchanged. We will never look at the world the same way again.

    However, while we reflect, we must keep in mind the big shoes that are to be filled. Shoes, that, alas, will remain unfilled. No one is up to the task of replacing the spectacular train of critical thought that Hitchens produced throughout his life. Our failure to live up to Hitchens’ caliber is guaranteed.

    Realizing this, the response we MUST make is to roll up our sleeves and bloody well do our best. The Hitch would have given us no quarter, and neither should we.

    There are books to read, arguments to make, conversations to be had. There are bad ideas waiting to befall mankind and cause needless suffering. There are illusions waiting to be popped with the red hot needle of reason and evidence.

    If we have learned anything from the Hitch, it is that at every moment, hysterical totalitarian irrationality is in the wings, just waiting for a moment of distraction to pounce. This pole of unreason cannot be circumvented or vanquished, but rather, it must be constantly fought. We must resist it like the swimmer treads water to prevent drowning. Everything of value in life – consciousness itself – is forever jeopardized by the demon of unreason. As far as we know, this life is all we have, and consciousness will eventually end. To assume that it will go on forever is to risk ignoring everything of value in life.

    We therefore owe it, not to the memory of Hitch, but TO OURSELVES to defend and expand the bounty of consciousness. We should have no patience with those who want to offload all ethical questions onto an imaginary eternal life, for which there is no evidence. Life is worth living for its own sake, right here and now. The Hitch live his whole life with this understanding, and so should we.

    • Grania
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 5:40 am | Permalink

      Very well said.

      • lamacher
        Posted December 16, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        Indeed.

    • DocAtheist
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      +1

  5. Steve Smith
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    “When Voltaire was dying the priest came and said ‘you should renounce the devil,’ and he responded ‘This is no time to be making enemies.’”

    Goodbye, Christopher.

  6. Posted December 16, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Let us by all means mourn him, but we should celebrate his life in the way he did himself:

    Drunk off our asses armed with a razor sharp wit that we’re more than willing to use?

    I agree with this!

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 17, 2011 at 12:04 am | Permalink

      If only my wit weren’t inversely related to my state of inebriation!

  7. daveau
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Billy Pilgrim: I give you the Tralfamadorian greeting: Hello. Farewell. Hello. Farewell. Eternally connected, eternally embracing. Hello. Farewell.

    • sasqwatch
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      Smiling, big time.

      And to that, I give you the Tarvu greeting: Hebbo.

      Now, I really AM getting back to work. ;-)

      • daveau
        Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        Either you are completely demented, or you’re having that Bombay Sapphire for breakfast. Or both…

  8. moleatthecounter
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    Tonight I shall endeavour to go out and drink heavily, and pick a verbal fight with some unsuspecting religious type, which I shall win.

    It’s what he would have wanted…

  9. Posted December 16, 2011 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    He lived well.

    Cheers!

    b&

  10. Darrell E
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Very sad tidings. This one has hit me harder than I expected. It seems that as I get older I am becoming more sentimental. Farewell Christopher! I shall toast your wonderful life this evening with the finest scotch that I am able to procure.

  11. Mark
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Dear CFI–DC supporters,

    We are deeply saddened to report that our friend and champion Christopher Hitchens has died.

    Since Christopher was our neighbor in Washington, we will come together to express our loss by gathering on the sidewalk in front of his DC home.

    All are welcome to join us: Friday, December 16, beginning at 5:00 pm and Saturday, December 17, beginning at noon.

    Address:
    The Wyoming apartment building
    2022 Columbia Road NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    (4 blocks north of Dupont Circle Metro, just north of the Washington Hilton Hotel)

    Warmest regards,

    Melody Hensley
    Executive Director

  12. mordacious1
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    I remember (perhaps not too accurately, since I cannot find a clip online) the first time I saw Hitch (I had no clue who he was), many years ago. He was on a show (perhaps “Firing Line”) with William F. Buckley. Now, I always respected Buckley for his command of the English language, but did not like his condescending attitude or his politics. So here’s this young man that I didn’t know (Hitchens) explaining some point in detail and Buckley states: “I didn’t understand a word you just said”. Without missing a beat Hitchens replies: “I’m hardly surprised”. I’ve loved Hitch ever since. My first Hitchslap.

  13. Posted December 16, 2011 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    You summed it up right, Jerry. My first thought when I heard about this this morning was that I needed to check Butterflies & Wheels and Why Evolution Is True to get the real tributes.

    For what it’s worth, here’s my little memorial:

    http://spencertroxell.blogspot.com/2011/12/moving-into-world-without-hitchens_16.html

    We lost a good one this time.

  14. Chris Slaby
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    The 9th movement of Philip Glass’s 5th symphony is what has been going through my mind this morning:

    “IX DEATH

    People seldom find their way
    To this wide and desolate plain.
    Except for my grave, there is nothing here,
    Only wild beasts roaming about
    And quarreling over my bones.
    The wandering ghosts that haunt this tomb
    Fly with the wind over the pines,
    Quick as a lightening flash before the eye,
    And brief as the morning dew.
    Must I remain forever hidden beneath the moss,
    Here in these shadows of grass?
    [Then] I would rather be buried once and for all,
    in dark oblivion!
    Such pains of desire burn my soul!
    This is my dwelling, the Burning House,
    This is my dwelling, the Burning House!

    - The Sought-for Grave
    Kanze Kiyotsugu Kan’ami

    In this world
    the living grow fewer,
    the dead increase
    how much longer must I carry this body of grief?

    How sad,
    to think I will end
    as only
    a pale green mist
    drifting the far fields.

    - Ono no Komachi

    On a journey, ill
    And over fields all withered
    Dreams go wandering still.

    - His Death Haiku
    Bashõ Matsuo

    My foes will become nothing.
    My friends will become nothing.
    I too will become nothing.
    Likewise all will become nothing.

    Just as in a dream
    whatever I enjoy

    will become a memory,
    whatever has passed will not be seen again.

    Leaving all I must depart alone.

    - Bodhicaryãvatãra 2:35-36, 34
    Sãntideva”

  15. Strider
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    When I first encountered him he was advocating for the jailing of Bill and Hilary Clinton and I was not amused. I think it was on the old Dennis Miller show. I once crossed verbal swords with him, on a political talk show in Chicago, regarding the Monica Lewinsky affair. I like to think I acquitted myself well but that’s probably wishful thinking. I later learned to respect *most* of his opinions (I did not share his opinion on the Iraq War nor on blended scotch whiskey) and admire him greatly. I’ll miss his intellect, wit, and his mellifluous voice. I’ll be lifting a glass of single malt in his honor tonight.
    Cheers, Hitch!

    • Tumara Baap
      Posted December 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      I remember reading a New Yorker profile on him well before God is Not Great was published. It delved into both his views on Iraq and the Clintons. At the time it made him come across vile and petty minded. I believe Clinton was a Rhodes scholar when he first crossed paths with Hitchens. Hitch felt second rate to Clinton and the jealousy fueled an eternal neurotic campaign of malice and slime against the clintons. War: Hitchens felt he never lived up to his family’s army heritage. He was hence always Hawkish in order to compensate. His views on Iraq were self admittedly shaped by a visceral gut instinct against a looming threat … his own words being that he felt cornered like by a coiled snake by 9/11. Well, that is hardly a paragon of intellect and critical thinking. Amongst the horsemen he is the one I felt most embarrassed to have in the atheist camp. If one could falter so easily on the little things, who are you to address the grandest questions of all? And yet I am sad he is gone. Whatever, you thought of him, he was an ace debater and a master of the language.

  16. Posted December 16, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    (subscribing)

  17. Heber
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I have also exalted the man’s inimitable attribute before, so here is Hitchens already ill, but no less sage-like and eloquent illuminating an audience of children. I wish this would go viral.

    • Harry
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      This, to me, is the whole of Hitch condensed into a handy nutshell. It boggles my mind that people still prefer the poisoned chalice with its Kool-Aid.

      The youtube comment is “Some of the best few minutes of human speech ever uttered.”, and I think that’s not an improper way of describing this absolutely magnificent ad-lib.

      Please please please, let this go viral.

  18. alexandra
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    T Blair should be stifled on this saddest of days – who ever thought of getting that piss ant to comment on air on the loss of such a giant should be ashamed. I covered my ears.
    Almost impossible to believe CH is gone, but in body only – ah, all those wise and funny and inspiring words remain to console us, and to armor us against all the depraved idiots who linger in the world.

    • DV
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      If you listened, you would have heard Tony Blair had all good things to say about Hitch. There was no hint of gloating over the dead at all such as you might expect from Hitchen’s adversaries who could not defeat him while he was breathing – but probably that’s a very low bar for civility.

  19. SteveF
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Here’s his brother’s tribute. It’s an beautiful and very moving piece

    http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2011/12/in-memoriam-christopher-hitchens-1949-2011.html

    I agree with little, if anything, that Peter Hitchens says. But I have a strange admiration for him as a good writer and one who is unafraid to say what he thinks, even if what he thinks is usually wrong. In that way he is much like his late brother, even though their opinions differed so much.

  20. Jimbo
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I’ve been dreading this day and alas it has come to pass. What I loved most about Hitchens was that he argued for atheism from a literary/philosophy tradition that made it more accessible and less scary to the general public than so many others before him. He also had the guts to debate anyone and take an atheist book tour through the Bible belt of America. Even Dawkins won’t debate the religious but Hitch engaged them head on and destroyed their pathetic arguments with superior reason and humanism.

    I always liked that he branded himself an “anti-theist” rather than an atheist–one who believes not only that there is no evidence for God but asks why would one wish it to be true? The “celestial North Korea” jibe is so poignant and undergirds his lifelong hatred of totalitarianism.

    He always fought publicly for the repressed and exploited. To attack Mother Theresa as not a friend of the poor but a friend of poverty because we now know that the emancipation of women is the best innoculant to poverty is one of the greatest statements I’ve ever heard.

    Goddamn I miss you already Hitch.

  21. Edward
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    “short span that is given us”

    Given us by who? ;-)

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      It’s a metaphor, because I’m a sophisticated atheist!

    • DocAtheist
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      Not a “who” but a “what”, that “what” being the university, existing and acting as it does in ways explicable through science and therefore in no need of mythological “whos.”

      • DocAtheist
        Posted December 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        “universe”, not “university”, of course…

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 17, 2011 at 12:17 am | Permalink

          Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference . . .

  22. Posted December 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Most regrettable news. I had the great good fortune of attending one of his last public appearances, and was as moved by his humility and kindness as by his resolve and wit.

    He is gone, but has gone nowhere, and lives on in the only form of immortality that any of us, if we are honest with ourselves, can aspire to, his works and ideas.

    His contributions to reason and English literature will be remain with us for generations, and as a writer myself, I delight that owing to the human ingenuity he cherished so much, his words will linger in inspiration forever.


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