Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hitchens: The voiceless lion roars still ...

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress,
and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink,
but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct,
will pursue their principles unto death.
(Leonardo da Vinci)

Little men with little minds and little imaginations who live in their little worlds tell us with a certain barely discernible schadenfreude that Christopher Hitchens is not doing so well. His months are numbered.

It's hard to explain why I feel about Hitchens the way I do. On the most important issue, politically, he not only disagrees with me but expresses his disagreement with ruthless sincerity. Yet at the prospect of his imminent passing I am filled with grief, as if it were a close relative or a cherished friend who will be lost to me.

Here is the dude himself, still going strong, despite his inability to speak, the result, I assume of that evil disease that is consuming his life. A little more bombast than his usual even-keel tone but then, it is only natural that when your voice is weak, you tend to put a great deal more effort into being heard:

"That essential sense of decency is outraged every day. Our theocratic enemy is in plain view. Protean in form, it extends from the overt menace of nuclear-armed mullahs to the insidious campaigns to have stultifying pseudo-science taught in American schools. But in the past few years, there have been heartening signs of a genuine and spontaneous resistance to this sinister nonsense: a resistance which repudiates the right of bullies and tyrants to make the absurd claim that they have god on their side. To have had a small part in this resistance has been the greatest honor of my lifetime: the pattern and original of all dictatorship is the surrender of reason to absolutism and the abandonment of critical, objective inquiry. The cheap name for this lethal delusion is religion, and we must learn new ways of combating it in the public sphere, just as we have learned to free ourselves of it in private.

Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal: the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation (and who stupidly claim that we already have all the truth we need). Perhaps above all, we affirm life over the cults of death and human sacrifice and are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped and distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings and incantations. "

How I wish, despite his exhortations to the contrary, that I genuinely could believe in a God, that I could offer a prayer, that I could clearly envision Hitchens facing God with a sardonic smile, challenging his smugness and self-righteousness, daring him to come up with some even remotely plausible explanations for his unfathomable ways of inflicting such terrors upon the teeming humanity he had created.


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