Christopher Hitchens is no more.
I know my blog did not break the news of Christopher Hitchens’s death to you, its current reader, but I like the look of the sentence alone atop the post. His fitful yet sincere struggle for public atheism frankly demands we now be sparse and let go the usual sentiment that attends the deaths of those who lived public lives.
Christopher Hitchens was, and now he is no more. All that remains are remains, his two bodies: one a hunk of meat, much abused, first by him and later by disease–soon ash; the other, his work, equal parts lively and learned, clever and cutting, and–it must be remembered, even now that he molders–boorish and bone-headed.
I don’t mourn him, exactly. How could I? I never knew the man, only the work. His writing made me burn with rage at the way he deftly wielded complicated names and academic esoterica to preempt rebuttal, envy at his famously speedy turnaround, and, more often than I’d like to admit, the grudging but sincere flush that comes at seeing another’s words fall into place divulging no hint of the effort that got them there. His words will retain most of their punch and verve for the rest of my body’s time on this rock–fading, certainly, as tastes change, as the language drifts, as his references follow him into obscurity, and as other, lesser writers wear the edge off the techniques he honed so fine. But for you and I, whoever may be reading this now, we were close enough to the source that the slip will be almost imperceptible, hardly felt. If anything, that small loss to come is all I mourn.
In the early days of my blog, I cobbled together a demonstration of how Hitchens wielded the word ‘medieval’. Reposting the link now is hardly tribute, but at the least it can serve to show that I do deserve this disquiet I feel today. Hitchens has been in my head for some time, and I’ll carry him forward there with me until I, too, am no more.
When Gary Gygax died, I began with this, my favorite medieval statement on our time here together, and I will close with it now, for Hitchens:
Memento, homo, quod cinis es; et in cinerem reverteris.
Remember, man, that you are but cold ash; and that to cold ash, you return.