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Gone



Christopher Hitchens died last night. Many of you likely know who he was. Some of you may only have heard of him. To say that he was a British journalist who rose to fame on the prowess of his writing on politics and atheism, while true, would only be the cold, stock description of a vast and complicated man. Ill with esophageal cancer over the last year-and-a-half, the news of Hitchens' death has nevertheless surprised me with the magnitude of melancholy it has created within my core.

A man of sharp tongue and intellect, who rarely tired of a robust debate, Hitchens drew inspiration from George Orwell, and many (myself included) in-turn drew inspiration from him. His written output was profuse, encompassing a plethora of essays and articles, many of them for Vanity Fair magazine. He also put out the odd book, many of which wouldn't fail at rousing the ire of many a die-hard believer, incensed at Hitchens' blasphemy of their particular religiosity. But it was hard to win a debate against the man. Most were simply too slow-witted, and not as well-versed in whatever subject was at hand, to combat his oratorical and intellectual skills.

While I immensely admired Hitchens, that didn't mean I always agreed with him. He could be extremely harsh in his criticism of religion and spirituality. If we're being truthful, there were times that he positively disgusted me with his unrepentant disdain for those of faith. Still, that now doesn't seem so bad. I suppose that's one of the ways that the immediacy of death softens the impact of insolence in life. And, lest we forget Hitchens' hawkishness during the bulk of the aughts, wherein he sided quite a bit with the neocons of the Bush administration during the Iraq War.

But now, the man is gone. He was a true contrarian, implacable in so many ways, adrift in the political and cultural landscape. Perhaps this is why so many respected him, even if they did not always agree with him. Because if you disagreed with Hitchens about one thing, you would invariably agree with him about something else. And people of good intelligence tend to admire complexity and outspokenness. We have lost a little of both with the passing of this contrarian.

Christopher Hitchens is gone now. By his own set of beliefs, the mind that encapsulated who he was is  breaking down and dispersing as we speak, never again to form another opinion, never to laugh, or enjoy a scotch, or the tug of a cigarette. Those who read his columns, and especially those closest to him, have to endure the worst part of all --- that this erudite human being who was an avid commenter on life, is now utterly and completely no more.

Following is an excerpt from Colin Dexter's The Remorseful Day. It has been ruminating with me  very much today:
The eyes were closed, but the expression on the waxen face was hardly one of great serenity, for some hint of pain still lingered there. Like so many others contemplating a dead person, Lewis found himself pondering so many things as he thought of Morse's mind within the skull. Thought of that wonderful memory, of that sensitivity to music and literature, above all of that capacity for thinking laterally, vertically, diagonally -- whateverwhichway that extraordinary brain should decide to go. But all gone now, for death had scattered that union of component atoms into the air, and Morse would never move or think or speak again.


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