C.H.

Besides the seemingly strong gusts of wind that brings the tree branches back and forth as if trying to shake them awake from some kind of a stupor, nothing life-threatening has thus far been witnessed in the midst of this hurricane.  The hurricane that has caused the public transportation system to temporarily suspend its service.  About just thirty minutes ago, I ventured outside to see what it would feel like to be amidst of a hurricane, nothing special.  It felt like any other rainy day, a bit windier perhaps but nothing that I have not experienced in other seasons.  What is all this panic?  The panic of death?






Published soon after his death, Mortality is a relatively more personal (perhaps even a bit more so than Hitch-22 even though that was written as a memoir) and a much slimmer book than all the other ones written by Christopher Hitchens.  Mortality at times reads like a patient's journal and at other times reads like his other works, cynical but witty.  The most admirable characteristic of Hitchens was his unwavering persistence on being a contrarian.  For he was most famous for refuting the validity of all religious beliefs.  In this book he also tries to refute one of the most famously quoted and also at times mist-used line.

"whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger." Friedrich Nietzsche of course said this in German: Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker.  I am not a German speaker but I do know a thing or two about translated text and that how certain aspects of its original do not always prevail after translation.  According to Hitchens, in German this line could sound like poetry and thus alluded to his suspicion that Nietzsche might have borrowed this from Goethe.

Though the saying might seem to be true in some instances when one is faced with a difficult task, such as when one is under certain emotional strain.  However, for Hitchens while facing death front-on with all his physical might started to question this saying. The saying that even he at one time thought was profound.  During the final course of his cancerous ordeal and while being subjected to multiple chemo-therapies, the daily drawings of blood for medical examines but the physical pain he endured never did give him any sense of getting stronger.  Quite the opposite, he felt weaker and weaker as the caner declared the war that further infringed on his body of its minimal functions as a human.  In the book he also addressed that even though in most physically healthy people's mind, one is always perceived to be battling against cancer when in fact it really is the other way around.

To sum up the point, Hitchens stated that if we were to believe "whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger" seemed almost equivalent to "There but for the grace of god go I."  Which is to say that whatever doesn't kill you just didn't kill you, as to whether it should make you stronger, that is not always the case.  

With this said, the book does not read as fatalistic.  Contrary to my choice of example, Hitchens persisted in being vital and fully conscious during the process of coming face-to-face with human mortality, that of his own agonizing final days. As he believed, death and the process of letting go (dying) was also a part of the life-experience of all human beings.  In the end, we all pass on. 



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