‘From quiet homes and first beginnings, out to the undiscovered ends, there’s nothing worth the wear of winning but laughter and the love of friends’
Hilaire Belloc’s ’Dedicatory Ode’
Christopher Hitchens died the other day.
To me, Hitchens was an inspired writer. His writing was articulate, amazing, cogent and sparkling throughout with literary gems and original thoughts. He was a master who could craft the perfectly expressed thought and clearly present the most inspired original idea. He could nail the most devastating argument; or voice the most scornfully appropriate criticism; or coin the most delightful term. And because we were both the same age, and shared a similar taste for dark humor, I persuaded myself that I had at least something in common with this complex man whose writing has given me such pleasure over the years – even when I disagreed with him.
You can probably find dozens of tributes by his famous admirers, and samples of his writing on line (here’s one of my favorites) but I particularly was struck by the impromptu eulogy in his brother Richard’s blog today, and from which I take Belloc’s poem quoted above. The post thanks people for their kind wishes and then takes Christopher’s courage as its topic:
“Much of civilisation rests on the proper response to death, simple unalloyed kindness, the desire to show sympathy for irrecoverable less, the understanding that a unique and irreplaceable something has been lost to us. If we ceased to care, we wouldn’t be properly human…
“Here’s a thing I will say now without hesitation, unqualified and important. The one word that comes to mind when I think of my brother is ‘courage’. By this I don’t mean the lack of fear which some people have, which enables them to do very dangerous or frightening things because they have no idea what it is to be afraid. I mean a courage which overcomes real fear, while actually experiencing it…
“He would always rather fight than give way, not for its own sake but because it came naturally to him…
“Courage is deliberately taking a known risk, sometimes physical, sometimes to your livelihood, because you think it is too important not to… I’ve mentioned here before C.S.Lewis’s statement that courage is the supreme virtue, making all the others possible. It should be praised and celebrated, and is the thing I‘d most wish to remember…”
Peter Hitchens on the death of his brother Christopher Hitchens on 12/15/11