Hitching Post

It seems, as of late, that Christopher Hitchens has been far more in the public eye than ever before. No matter how brilliantly reasoned and skillfully delivered are his many arguments, Hitchens’ mortality appears to be a topic of vastly greater interest. It is as though his death and the manner in which he faces it represent the most decisive statement he could make on the existence of gods and the positive values of their attendant religions. This is, of course, utter horseshit and no one better demonstrates this than Hitchens himself, which he does with characteristic eloquence in the following article:

Unanswerable Prayers

I have no wish to comment further on the article or its contents. I write only to elaborate on a realization I had while reading it. The first spark of this realization came while watching this wonderful and well intentioned video:

For Christopher Hitchens

Compiled by YouTube subscriber The Thinking Atheist from the contributions of many of Hitchens’ fans, the video presents an outpouring of support for our ailing hero, as well as testimonials on the way his work has changed so many lives for the better. As I watched, I realized that some of these encouragements, while kindly meant, were perhaps misguided. They came in the form of various insistences that he can defeat the cancer that began in his esophagus and has now spread to his lymphatic system and lungs. Indeed, Hitchens mentions such sentiments in the aforementioned article, but is gracious and grateful enough not to name names. He surely knows that the motives behind these encouragements are clearer and less weighted than those coming from even the most benevolent prayer-circles directing their intercessions his way. Still, to paraphrase, it is hard enough to kick against death while simultaneously getting his house in order without worrying about letting his countless admirers down.

For those who attribute an almost supernatural resiliency to our revered Hitch, make no mistake; his prognosis is dire and the battle ahead, while not unwinnable, is difficult to the extreme. By admitting this and facing its inevitable truths, we afford him an honor that he is perfectly suited to understand and appreciate. With this in mind, I direct these last few words to Christopher Hitchens himself. I hold no pretense that he will ever read them, but considering the profoundly beneficent effect his tireless work has had on my life, it is the least I can do.

I will not pray for you, Hitch. I would not so dismissively insult your beliefs even if I did not, like you, have every reason to believe that prayer is a futile exercise. Though I think highly of you and am, as I write these words, thinking positively and hopefully about your health, I know that the power of any such sentiments resides entirely in how you choose to think of them.

I will not ask you to fight, but not because I would not prefer that you beat this disease. Quite the contrary, I hope you whoop its sorry ass and the genome it rode in on! It is just that I know you as a courageous fighter who will, as in all things, fight as long and as hard as you can – public opinion be damned! However, should the time come when hospice or a comfortable bed at home, surrounded by your loved ones, becomes preferable to any treatment, please remember that no one who matters will think the less of you for it. Death has a bravery only the dying can know.

I will not and cannot keep you in my consciousness any more than random thought or daily media reminders will allow; I have my own circle of friends and family whose concerns already demand much of my attention. Besides, though I am not privy to the details of your private life and can judge nothing of it, I would be surprised to learn that you did not have a large pool of family and/or friends constantly bolstering your morale with all the goodwill one man can handle.

What I can do is remind you to rest assured in the knowledge that your public life is a triumph and always will be. So many minds and, by extension, lives have been changed forever and for the better by the uncompromising character you have displayed in everything you have written and achieved. On behalf of atheists, skeptics, and freethinkers everywhere, thank you for a life well lived and so many worthy causes well championed. We hope you get the opportunity to continue living and fighting the good fight, for many years to come.

Yours in sympathy,

Buck O’Roon


About Buck O'Roon

Buck O'Roon [buhk oh-roon] –noun 1. a southerner of skeptical stripe, recognizable by his deeply furrowed brow and increasing lack of patience for institutionalized horse manure 2. curmudgeon-in-training
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