It is not easy to write about someone that you have never met. All one has to go on is the public persona which can be misleading even at the best of times.
Christopher Hitchens’ public persona may be enough though, in that he was prolific through essays and public appearances.
I came to know of Christopher Hitchens through his book “god is not great, how religion poisons everything“. I had just finished reading Richard Dawkins’ book “The God Delusion” and was looking for a similar type of subject for which to keep reading. I was struck by his writing style and how he ripped apart arguments that would easily offend the faithful. Being somewhat of a person who lacks empathy for the silly ones among us, I felt a kindred spirit kind of feeling as I continued reading.
After reading the book, I searched for Hitchens on youtube to see if he had any thoughts to share on video. I was gobsmacked by what I saw! It was a treasure trove of debates, appearances, recollections and stoic braveness in the face of death.
It was through these videos that I came to know him. It was enough. A fierce debater with an incredible reservoir of knowledge. A performer at heart who could make an audience laugh at just the right time. A raconteur as only someone who has really “been there and done that” could attest. A person who did not suffer fools gladly. A man of fierce principle who stood by what he thought and felt.
His passionate defense of his good friend Salman Rushdie . While others in Rushdie’s circle of friends deserted him, Hitchens stood by him and shielded him from the people who wanted Rushdie dead. He had Rushdie in his home, effectively risking his own life to help his friend. A truer friend would be hard to find.
But it was in his handling of his sickness and ultimate death that showed me the great strength of this man of principle and honour. It was during this time that he did not waiver in his beliefs. It was in this time that he continued debating..and winning. Winning against the like of Tony Blair, an accomplished speaker in his own right.
It was also in this time that his friends came out to tell the world what a great man earth will lose. Their love for him was evident and touching at the same time. They chose to do this while he was alive because they knew that there is no heaven for him to go to so that he could see and hear what is being said of him. Their testimonials were filled with ripe anecdotes which made me appreciate him more.
I understand the need for comfort that religion brings when people pass on. But the comfort people feel doesn’t make it true. When you’re gone, that’s it, no more you, in any form. Hitchens is gone but his body of work isn’t. That’s what will make him immortal.
I read his books and essays with the sound of his voice in my head. I respect his opinions because I know the amount of research he’s done to come to those opinions.
I never met him but I do miss him.
Goodnight Mr. Hitchens and thank you.