One of the perks of having a reasonably well read blog that is that, once in a while, I get to write something that is out of my wheelhouse, yet important to me, and know that it will get read. I have nothing new to say about the Ryan-Wyden plan, or last night’s debate, but this morning, when I woke up, I learned that Christopher Hitchens is dead.
This makes me less sad than I think it normally would, because of all people, I think that Hitch was likely prepared for his end. I think that there was likely little in his life that he did not examine closely, that he did not consider thoroughly, that he did not internally debate. I’m sure that he knew his time was coming, and that he prepared for it as he thought he should. He died too young, but few people don’t.
Like many I admire, he sometimes said things or wrote things that angered me. But what I loved about him most was that I believed he really thought through what he said and what he thought. He would not just utter a belief on faith; I always felt like he had reasoned through his assertions, and whether or not you agreed with them, you at least could understand where he was coming from.
He could come off as a bully. I sure wouldn’t have wanted to get into an argument with him unprepared. But in many ways he had characteristics that I’m still trying to emulate. He was prolific, yet incredibly skilled at language. He was provocative, yet always backed up by rational arguments. He spoke his mind, seemingly without fear, seemingly without regret.
I admit that Hitch came to mind when I wrote about alcohol consumption and breast cancer a couple of weeks ago. I thought about him because it seemed to me that he would be the kind of person who would have thought through the tradeoffs, and made up his own mind. I was gratified this morning to read that he did:
He also professed to have no regrets for a lifetime of heavy smoking and drinking. “Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that — or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation — is worth it to me,” he told Charlie Rose in a television interview in 2010, adding that it was “impossible for me to imagine having my life without going to those parties, without having those late nights, without that second bottle.”
I certainly didn’t agree with everything he wrote or said, but I always admired his ability to do it so well. And what I’ll always remember about him is that he seemed to live a life he felt worth living, even if it meant that he got a little bit less of it.
UPDATE: Edited for clarity