Woke up at 5 a.m. with a 50-mph wind roaring outside my window. Rolled over and picked up my phone to check the weather, and was immediately assaulted with Facebook posts praising Hitch.
Clicked over to a news page and saw it. Dead at 62. Damn.
Many times during my younger life, I asked the people around me “If there was a pill you could take that would make it possible for you to live forever, would you take it?”
And I’ve been amazed at the answers, which consisted of a large majority of negatives.
One of the responses is recorded in my peculiar memory. I don’t remember who it was, or where or when, but I can HEAR it in my head. It’s a female voice, speaking in a twangy southern accent, so I’m guessing it was from when I still lived in Texas. And it says:
“Eww, no. I’d get bored!”
Duh … what? Bored? You’d get BORED with life??
That paucity of imagination should itself be fatal. In a world of real justice, anybody giving that answer should probably just keel over right there, too stupid to keep his/her heart beating, too stupid to remember to breathe.
I would take the pill in a second.
I say this because … well, probably because death came very seldom in my life.
When my cowboy buddy Tom passed away in the 1980s, he was the first person really close to me who died. I had no idea how to deal with it, no mental models for what I should be doing or thinking or feeling, and it just sort of sat there in the back of my head, a vast and disturbing mystery that I had no way to process.
But when my Dad died in early November of this year, quite a lot of stuff began happening in my head. Deep stuff. Important stuff.
I discovered there are LESSONS in death. That death — real death, the kind we atheists know happens — has something to teach us about Life.
For some of us, you have to live a while, and have these sorts of things happen to you repeatedly, before you can absorb those lessons.
For me there are two main lessons.
One has to do with compassion: Love More.
Continue to grow the fellow-feeling you have for the beloved beasts, 2-legged and 4-, you have around you. Care about people and animals — expressing it in some real, active way — and do it a lot.
But the other has to do with courage: Be Less Afraid.
I’d take the pill because I think it would take me about a hundred more years before I could get to the point where I felt I had a good, strong, practical, working level of compassion …
… and about TWO hundred more years to get to the level of personal courage that my Dad, and Christopher Hitchens had.
I’m not talking about voluntarily walking into a war zone, which both Hitch and Dan Farris did. I’m talking about what seems to me the more difficult courage, the longer-term kind — the courage to unabashedly, unashamedly, be yourself.
Find your passion. Pursue your own career, your own hobbies. Pick your own lifemates.
Above all, say the things you think need to be said, do the things you feel need to be done, no matter whose ox you gore. Dance naked on Main Street, if that’s what it takes. Be YOU, and do it emphatically!
And if you discover the doing of that makes you enemies … hell, as long as you know you’re not hurting anybody, just keep right on doing it. Fuck ‘em.
Hitch, thanks for the lesson in courage. As I said to my Dad in his last days, the world was a better place for having had you in it.
I hope to live long enough that I can become some small measure of what you were.
Saw this on Facebook, had to add it: