Remembering Christopher Hitchens

December 24, 2011

By Lawrence Krauss

The world, which Christopher Hitchens would have happily admitted was already pretty dark, got a little darker yesterday. With his death, it also got a lot emptier. Christopher was a beacon of knowledge and light in a world that constantly threatens to extinguish both. He had the courage to accept the world for just what it is, and not what we would like it to be. That is the highest praise I believe one can give to any intellect. He understood that the Universe doesn’t care about our existence, or our welfare, and epitomized the realization that our lives have meaning only to the extent we give them meaning.
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Anonymous said...



"beacon of knowledge", and, as if it were not enough: beacon, additonally, of "light"


"the Universe"

And so on. And so forth.

One wonders - but cannot know - what Hitchens himself, especially in his prime, would have felt at such language.

Anonymous said...

To the first comment - I agree, but I think Hitchens would have had a cripplingly narrow social circle if he had only made friends with people whose speaking and writing were as good as his.

Anonymous said...

Fine wit in the service of plain hatred


Christopher Hitchens was disinclined to show mercy to others, let alone ask for it. Yet the hope remains that he knows it now.

Christopher Hitchens is dead. By his own lights, he is utterly defunct, decomposing more rapidly than yesterday's newspaper. I take a different view, and do sincerely pray for a merciful judgment. In the mean time, I trust that his soul, even now, is chagrined with the extravagant evasions that marked his death.

The estimable David Frum wrote that, "If moral clarity means hating cruelty and oppression, then Christopher Hitchens was above all things a man of moral clarity."

Clarity he had. But hating cruelty? He was himself both hateful and cruel. Upon Bob Hope's death, Hitchens wrote that he was a "fool, and nearly a clown." When Ronald Reagan died, Hitchens called him a "stupid lizard," "dumb as a stump" and "an obvious phony and loon." On Mother Teresa: "The woman was a fanatic and a fundamentalist and a fraud, and millions of people are much worse off because of her life, and it's a shame there is no hell for your bitch to go to."

The sadness is that there is a hell for Hitch to go to. He was granted a long farewell, with the opportunity for reconsiderations and reconciliations with those he hated and those he hurt. He declined to take advantage of it. Mother Teresa is fine, and no doubt prays for her enemies, including that Hitchens would be delivered both from hell and the nihilistic oblivion, which he thought awaited him.

For many of Hitchens' fellow journalists, the virtuosity of his brilliant writing and bracing conversation earned him a pass on the hatred. But hatred it remained. His commercial genius was to harbour hatreds sufficiently vast and varied that a lucrative constituency could be found to relish all of them.

The Scriptures in which Hitchens did not believe say that love is stronger than death. Maybe he thought hatred was, too.
He desired to live that he might trash the freshly dead. It was habitual for him, most intensely manifest when he accepted an astonishingly ill-conceived invitation from ABC to provide commentary for Mother Teresa's funeral broadcast, using the occasion to heap abuse upon her as she was being laid to rest. It was a vile, vicious and typical performance. Is it truly possible that the "relish" with which he did, so redeemed it in the eyes of his literary friends?

As for his courage, I find less there than others do. He faced his final illness with real fortitude. He was fearless – and peerless – in debate. But I think it more apt to explain the idiosyncratic incoherence of his views by the gravitational pull of shifting opinions. Professionally, only his campaign against the mendacity of the Clintons was courageous.

Almost every gushing remembrance mentioned his legendary drinking and dinner-table rhetoric. That he could write better drunk than the rest of us sober is impressive in its own way, but the sheer awe of his drinking prowess is puzzling. Perhaps if I had gone drinking with him, I too would have been bewitched.

"Mercifully, too, I now can't summon the memory of how I felt during those lacerating days and nights," Hitchens wrote for the January 2012 issue of Vanity Fair, recalling the horrors of cancer and its treatment. Yet the lacerations inflicted by his writing do remain, and are remembered. The remedy is mercy. Hitchens was disinclined to show it, let alone ask for it. Yet the hope remains that he knows it now.

Father Raymond J. de Souza National Post, (Canada) December 20 2011.

David Osorio said...

Hey, here's the Spanish translation:


Babelfish said...

It is funny how the "father" is precisely doing the same thing that he so incessantly blames hitch did to dead folks. One of the many hypocrisies that most of the people with religious authority have to offer.

Anonymous said...

@Bablefish, thx for the comment, nice to see how less words it takes to easily counter mr. de souzas words...

Frank K said...

Is it just me or do others feel a rather acute and nagging sadness compared to other well respected public figures, leaders and voices of reason lost in our respective life times? Christopher said THE DEATH IS NOT THE END OF THE PARTY. THE PARTY IS GOING ON, BUT YOU'RE LEAVING. You threw one heck of a party Hitch and I'm so glad I decided to attend. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, as postulated by Professor Nick Bostrom, Oxford University, we exist in a virtual reality where unbeknownst to us, there is a level 2. Now that would be irony.

Howard Petrick said...

Christopher Hitchens died putting all his fath in knowledge and reason, which in the end could not save him (it failed to cure his cancer). In his life he largely proved to be a negative rather than enlightening force. What we will remember about him is primarily what he despised: Bill Clinton, Mother Teresa, the Catholic Church, Muslims, anti-Iraq war activists, etc. But what was he for? What vision did he set out for society? How did he imagine it would all come together? This was never clearly articulated in his writings or talks. He was a man who was more at home tearing down conventions of civil society than building up or improving upon them, and for this reason, he will not long be remembered or placed among the great thinkers of our generation or even the previous (Bernard Shaw, Chesterton, and his beloved B.Russell and Orwell come to mind). Certainly he did articulate a certain preference for rationalism. But this was nothing new and - in the end - proved to have been done far better and with greater eloquence by his enlightenment forebears. As for seeking the truth – a claim made by many of his eulogizers - he only sought it – as do most of us – within the confines of his own predetermined views and prejudices. What emerged was only “true” in the sense that he believed it to be so. In the end he was somewhat of a tragic figure – more to be pitied than scorned – as evidenced by the numbers of earnest Christians who befriended him and prayed for him.

Anonymous said...

Howard one of your progeny will one day need to have their lives prolonged by 'reason and knowledge', at which point they will thank researchers and physicians, not the ridiculous rhetoric of some fatalistic, sectarian asshole.


Christopher reads from Hitch-22: A Memoir