Friday, December 16, 2011
“I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves,”
Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22.
As you have no doubt heard by now, Christopher Hitchens, who had been receiving treatment for esophageal cancer since the middle of last year, died of pneumonia Thursday night at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, he was 62.
While I am, as always, days late in hearing the news, and I can't even pretend to have any great insight to add to the meaning of his life or the impact of his death. As someone whose taken great inspiration from his work for many years now, I can't help but at least try to express who he was and what his work meant, to me.
Hitchens was best known to most of mainstream culture, at least here in America anyway, as one of the most vocal, and aggressive, members of the modern atheist movement. He was a polarizing figure, even amongst those of us who shared his values, and was often characterized as a loud-mouthed intellectual. One who could always be found -drink in one hand, cigarette in the other- happily dismantling the most sacred ideals, icons, and beliefs, of much of modern society. All while displaying little to no regard for whose feelings he might hurt or whose sensibilities he might offend along the way. Which, all in all, is a fair enough characterization of his public face I suppose, and to me, a description of a man I would have loved to have met.
Christopher Hitchens, as I saw him, was a man who believed that intellectualism was not a dirty word. That being a so-called intellectual, was not a pursuit beyond the means of the average mind. He was a man who believed that acquiring a true higher understanding of our world was something that we should all aspire to, and he correctly identified religion as one of the primary enemies of that pursuit, and treated it accordingly.
It was this unapologetic promotion of free thought, and his effort to promote and reinvigorate interest in the values of the enlightenment movement -the philosophical and intellectual phenomena that was, not only the true parent of America, but of the modern scientific era in which we live today- that meant the most, and had the greatest affect and influence on me personally. Because I believe that what the world needs most is to learn not to tolerate ignorance, injustice, or hatred; or to settle for mediocrity for the sake of tradition, superstition, or fear of offense. And that, to me, was the overwhelming theme of Hitchens' work, and the reason that I will most miss having his voice in the world.
From the IQ2 talks: Stephen Fry & friends, discuss the life, love, & hates of Christopher Hitchens.
Posted by Youtube user: iqsquared