Today is the first time I literally mourned the loss of someone I did not personally know, I had never spoken to and was as much a stranger to me as anyone alive.
I have articles, YouTube videos, and anecdotes attesting to his public persona, but I did not know the man. I cannot say if he was a good man. I cannot speak to his honesty, his integrity, as to his fitness as a father and a husband.
And yet I mourn the passing of Christopher Hitchens.
I do so because he spoke as if reading my mind. He spoke to the questions examining the human condition. Questions I suspect are common to all thinking humans. He did so with a lucidity, elegance, and clarity I have not encountered elsewhere.
Hitchens’s ability to distill complicated concepts to their clearest and simplest form, present them in clear and simple words anyone could understand, and doing so seemingly on the fly, was what made him a pleasure to listen to.
That he pulled no punches, that he did not offer respect to absurdity, that he did not cow-tow to unearned and unwarranted positions of authority, that he did not compromise at the expense of what he believed, well, that was just icing on the cake.
I came across this quote on a friend’s post.
“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.” – Christopher Hitchens
I know, because I have seen it, there are some who rejoice of his passing. Perhaps they do not yet realize his spoken and written words will be repeated, quoted, shared, and appreciated for a long time to come.
The flesh and blood may be gone, but his influence on thinking people everywhere will continue on, perhaps sparking others to keep the candle burning even as ignorance and stupidity are seemingly making great strides all around the world.