Christopher Hitchens is very sick with esophageal cancer, but he still writes like a fiery angel in describing his situation.
These are my first raw reactions to being stricken. I am quietly resolved to resist bodily as best I can, even if only passively, and to seek the most advanced advice. My heart and blood pressure and many other registers are now strong again: indeed, it occurs to me that if I didn’t have such a stout constitution I might have led a much healthier life thus far. Against me is the blind, emotionless alien, cheered on by some who have long wished me ill. But on the side of my continued life is a group of brilliant and selfless physicians plus an astonishing number of prayer groups. On both of these I hope to write next time if–as my father invariably said–I am spared.
I’m reminded of Stephen J. Gould, who was also afflicted with cancer, who wrote one of his best essays ever, The Median Isn’t the Message, on the subject. How do atheists face death? As we see from the examples of Hitchens and Gould, with courage and reason.
Gould, by the way, outlived his diagnosis by 20 years.
Also, if you’d like to see some examples of the people wishing Hitchens ill, simply browse this cache of conservative comments at Politico. The contrast is astonishing: there’s Hitchens, the wounded lion, writing beautifully and strongly, and there are the nattering mice, blathering about ‘atheists in foxholes’ and praying for a conversion in their thuggish and clumsy cliches and blind dogmas.
I look at the two sides and I know which one I want to be on when I grow up.