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uncle ebeneezer
08-06-2010, 03:09 PM
On Cancer, Suicide etc (http://www.politico.com/click/stories/1008/hitchens_talks_cancer_with_cooper.html).

Lyle
08-06-2010, 08:46 PM
Live motherfucker, live!!! That's my prayer.

bjkeefe
08-06-2010, 08:53 PM
On Cancer, Suicide etc (http://www.politico.com/click/stories/1008/hitchens_talks_cancer_with_cooper.html).

Also, this (http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/09/hitchens-201009):

FIRST PERSON

Topic of Cancer

http://www.vanityfair.com/images/culture/2010/09/hitchens.jpg

One fine June day, the author is launching his best-selling memoir, Hitch-22. The next, he’s throwing up backstage at The Daily Show, in a brief bout of denial, before entering the unfamiliar country—with its egalitarian spirit, martial metaphors, and hard bargains of people who have cancer.

By Christopher Hitchens • Photograph by John Huba

I confess that, due to reasons I'll not expand upon, I have as yet been unable to read what I understand is a pretty wonderful/heart-wrenching thing (http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/09/hitchens-201009) past the first few paragraphs. Someone -- I am sorry to say I forget who -- who is not a Hitch fan said that it shows remarkable vulnerability, given the source (and the blogger's view of Hitch).

Thanks to Twin for PMing me on it, and I will get to it sometime. Meantime, there is the link, for others braver than myself.

Ocean
08-06-2010, 11:01 PM
Also, this (http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/09/hitchens-201009):



I confess that, due to reasons I'll not expand upon, I have as yet been unable to read what I understand is a pretty wonderful/heart-wrenching thing (http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/09/hitchens-201009) past the first few paragraphs. Someone -- I am sorry to say I forget who -- who is not a Hitch fan said that it shows remarkable vulnerability, given the source (and the blogger's view of Hitch).

Thanks to Twin for PMing me on it, and I will get to it sometime. Meantime, there is the link, for others braver than myself.

Christopher's writing was witty, and yet, uncharacteristically sweet. He was creative and funny in his description of the land of the healthy and the land of the ill. But the most striking aspect of this article is the lack of posturing, the candid account of events and feelings without pretending. He showed a degree of humility that has been rare in his previous public life.

Sometimes a serious, and often terminal physical illness acts as a sobering event (sorry for the pun) and the afflicted discovers an emotional balance that didn't seem to be there before.

Best wishes for Christopher. I think he will handle his circumstances well.

Whatfur
08-06-2010, 11:16 PM
Christopher's writing was witty, and yet, uncharacteristically sweet. He was creative and funny in his description of the land of the healthy and the land of the ill. But the most striking aspect of this article is the lack of posturing, the candid account of events and feelings without pretending. He showed a degree of humility that has been rare in his previous public life.

Sometimes a serious, and often terminal physical illness acts as a sobering event (sorry for the pun) and the afflicted discovers an emotional balance that didn't seem to be there before.

Best wishes for Christopher. I think he will handle his circumstances well.

I think you mean well, but this is rather backhanded. Could it possibly be you who has discovered an emotional balance in him now that has always existed by allowing your sympathy to push aside your own prejudices? I have always found him to be candid even when I haven't agreed with him.

graz
08-06-2010, 11:27 PM
I think you mean well, but this is rather backhanded. Could it possibly be you who has discovered an emotional balance in him now that has always existed by allowing your sympathy to push aside your own prejudices? I have always found him to be candid even when I haven't agreed with him.

Candor does not equal humility. And you're offering a clear case of projection to a "shrink." Agreement is irrelevant to the matter at hand, which is his new found humility, as evidenced in the interview. Oh, and by the way, diaf. Howz that for evenhanded?

Ocean
08-06-2010, 11:35 PM
I think you mean well, but this is rather backhanded. Could it possibly be you who has discovered an emotional balance in him now that has always existed by allowing your sympathy to push aside your own prejudices? I have always found him to be candid even when I haven't agreed with him.

I thought about that possibility while I was writing my post. Usually I don't get carried away by sympathy into finding better qualities in the suffering person. But, there is a possibility that this particular writing allowed me to see something that may have been there before but hidden behind his arrogant stance. Please note that I made reference to being candid without pretense.

It is also likely that I don't know enough about him and I just had seen him or read him when he was in his more pompous self. I don't know. This particular writing was different from what I had seen before.

Whatfur
08-07-2010, 12:03 AM
I thought about that possibility while I was writing my post. Usually I don't get carried away by sympathy into finding better qualities in the suffering person. But, there is a possibility that this particular writing allowed me to see something that may have been there before but hidden behind his arrogant stance. Please note that I made reference to being candid without pretense.

It is also likely that I don't know enough about him and I just had seen him or read him when he was in his more pompous self. I don't know. This particular writing was different from what I had seen before.

Thank you for the clarity. Having less wind in his sails probably does have a genuine and blameless effect on perceptions.

graz
08-07-2010, 12:05 AM
Having less wind in his sails probably does have a genuine and blameless effect on perceptions.

Tossing the word salad!

chiwhisoxx
08-07-2010, 01:34 AM
I thought about that possibility while I was writing my post. Usually I don't get carried away by sympathy into finding better qualities in the suffering person. But, there is a possibility that this particular writing allowed me to see something that may have been there before but hidden behind his arrogant stance. Please note that I made reference to being candid without pretense.

It is also likely that I don't know enough about him and I just had seen him or read him when he was in his more pompous self. I don't know. This particular writing was different from what I had seen before.

I agree, I found the tone of the piece to be different from stuff I've read from him in the past. For the most part, I like Chris Hitchens, but sometimes I find him difficult to read. His arrogance doesn't bother me *that* much, as being heavily annoyed by arrogance would make it difficult to read a lot of writers, especially those in politics. What always struck me with Hitchens was the extent to which he is just plain mean. Now, I realize part of his shtick is that he's blunt, but I think sometimes he goes beyond blunt and into the realm of mean just for the sake of being mean.

rcocean
08-07-2010, 02:06 AM
Of course I'm saddened that any human being gets cancer and hope Mr. Hitchens survives. But good grief, all the absurd praise this character is getting. "Brave", "heart rending", "witty".

It's good that Hitchens, given his past writings, didn't ask for sympathy - but what a silly, shallow man he is. His courage in the face of death is no different then the animal courage shown by Oog the caveman 10,000 years ago. Hitchens really is just a shallow dumbshit who's never been able to understand anything outside himself. He's incapable of any deep thought at any level. A philosopher he ain't. More like an average tavern lout with a gift for gab. Hence, the contempt for religion - and anything not material - along with the disgusting "Kill em all" attitude toward the Muslims and Iraqis, and his flipping from Marxism-Trotskyism and being a rich Vanity Fair Neo-Con.

No doubt he was incapable understanding at any real deep level that his drinking and smoking would lead to his current condition, it was probably too abstract for him to grasp.

testostyrannical
08-07-2010, 09:34 AM
I've read a lot of Hitchens, and i don't find this article to be particularly uncharacteristic, although I do think it's one of the finest bits he's put out. I can see how it would be easy to write him off as a bit of a blowhard if you just encounter his more polemical writing, but I've never seen him unwilling to skew himself upon his own barbs, and when he's not crusading for something, he exhibits all the signs of a careful intelligence.

Ocean
08-07-2010, 11:06 AM
... but I've never seen him unwilling to skew himself upon his own barbs, ...

Yes, I have seen that before as well. But the difference I noticed is that before he would use more sarcasm. By pointing out his own flaws he would remain detached and above them. It seemed to be a preemptive strategy of sorts. In his current piece, he doesn't come across as sarcastic or attempting to be above. That's where humility shows.

... and when he's not crusading for something, he exhibits all the signs of a careful intelligence.

I never questioned his intelligence, before or now. He is acute and a ferocious debater.

AemJeff
08-07-2010, 12:37 PM
Of course I'm saddened that any human being gets cancer and hope Mr. Hitchens survives. But good grief, all the absurd praise this character is getting. "Brave", "heart rending", "witty".

It's good that Hitchens, given his past writings, didn't ask for sympathy - but what a silly, shallow man he is. His courage in the face of death is no different then the animal courage shown by Oog the caveman 10,000 years ago. Hitchens really is just a shallow dumbshit who's never been able to understand anything outside himself. He's incapable of any deep thought at any level. A philosopher he ain't. More like an average tavern lout with a gift for gab. Hence, the contempt for religion - and anything not material - along with the disgusting "Kill em all" attitude toward the Muslims and Iraqis, and his flipping from Marxism-Trotskyism and being a rich Vanity Fair Neo-Con.

No doubt he was incapable understanding at any real deep level that his drinking and smoking would lead to his current condition, it was probably too abstract for him to grasp.

That was a fairly inelegant thought. (And seemingly factually unrelated to its explicit subject.) I wonder motivated rc to express it?

Whatfur
08-07-2010, 12:39 PM
That was a fairly inelegant thought. (And seemingly factually unrelated to its explicit subject.) I wonder motivated rc to express it?

I agree...a little early for grave dancing.

TwinSwords
08-07-2010, 01:56 PM
Christopher's writing was witty, and yet, uncharacteristically sweet. He was creative and funny in his description of the land of the healthy and the land of the ill. But the most striking aspect of this article is the lack of posturing, the candid account of events and feelings without pretending. He showed a degree of humility that has been rare in his previous public life.

Sometimes a serious, and often terminal physical illness acts as a sobering event (sorry for the pun) and the afflicted discovers an emotional balance that didn't seem to be there before.

Best wishes for Christopher. I think he will handle his circumstances well.

That's a very nice summary, Ocean. Well said.

rcocean
08-07-2010, 10:02 PM
Plagarized from comments section at "Hitchens Watch (http://christopherhitchenswatch.blogspot.com/)":

Exactly. Hitchens has taken public pleasure at the painful deaths of others. This is the coarseness of this man's mind. He makes jokes about the suffering of the Iraqi innocents, celebrates the deaths of his ideological opponents and literary betters, and openly prays for people like the Pope and Kissinger to die so he can gloat over them. So let's be painfully realistic here. Hitchens is a very dishonest and dishonorable individual who has lowered the discourse sufficiently that we don't need to be sentimental here. Let us take this moment instead to appraise the man's work (negligible pamphlets that will fade from history the minute he is gone) and wicked politicking and propagandizing that has aided and abetted the most corrupt and cynical forces in our culture. He is a phony, a careerist hack and a poseur who stands for nothing but his own advancement. Shed no tears for Hitchens and his wasted life -- since he would shed none for you.

Whatfur
08-08-2010, 09:04 AM
Ahhh, now you are elegant by comparison.

bjkeefe
08-08-2010, 02:47 PM
On Cancer, Suicide etc (http://www.politico.com/click/stories/1008/hitchens_talks_cancer_with_cooper.html).

Those interested in something longer than the clip at the above link might check this nine-minute YouTube version (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgCq2T-v-Mo) (a copy of what I think aired) or this 18:40 version on AC's site (http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2010/08/07/video-extended-interview-hitchens-on-cancer-and-atheism/) (which he refers to as the "extended interview" at the end of the clip that I think aired).

(h/t: TC, via email)

uncle ebeneezer
08-08-2010, 11:06 PM
Thanks for finding that. It reminded me why I have always enjoyed Hitchens so much.

bjkeefe
08-08-2010, 11:23 PM
Thanks for finding that.

y/w (and thank TC).

It reminded me why I have always enjoyed Hitchens so much.

I agree.

rcocean
08-09-2010, 12:16 AM
The great "iconoclastic" who described Princess Diana and Mother Teresa at their deaths, as, respectively, “a simpering Bambi narcissist and a thieving fanatical Albanian dwarf" and who told Bob Wright we're all Just "apes in suits" is now begging for sympathy.

Poor Hitch, now he's an ape-in-a-suit with cancer and I'm supposed to feel sorry for him. Sniff. Sorry Chris, your egotistical road show ( hey, buy my book I'm dyin' of cancer) gets no sympathy from me. All my sympathy goes to the dead and maimed innocents in Lebanon and Iraq. Not to mention all those German kids in Dresden who you (Hitchens) said deserved to die.

I hope PZ Meyers at least will show some ape-like Courage and stoicism when he dies.

uncle ebeneezer
08-09-2010, 12:51 AM
I don't remember him begging sympathy from anyone. Quite the opposite, in fact.

But I'm glad you are brave enough to object to Hitchens' less desirable traits, by mimicking them in spades. How does your reflection look in that kettle, RC?

bjkeefe
08-09-2010, 01:03 AM
I don't remember him begging sympathy from anyone. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Of course he didn't. Don't feed the troll.

Lyle
08-09-2010, 01:16 AM
He's begging for sympathy? What?

By the way... you going to die one day too. Haha!!

uncle ebeneezer
08-09-2010, 01:30 AM
I actually found the dignified way that Hitchens is approaching his own death as quite admirable. And his ability to continue to view his situation through an objective lens of materialism, rather than embracing the supernatural to be extremely refreshing for somebody in the public eye. It's nice to see an example (by a public figure, no less) that an atheistic outlook is no less psychologically healthy for dealing with all the challenges of impending death, than a more faith-based approach.

rcocean
08-09-2010, 02:07 AM
I actually found the dignified way that Hitchens is approaching his own death as quite admirable. And his ability to continue to view his situation through an objective lens of materialism, rather than embracing the supernatural to be extremely refreshing for somebody in the public eye. It's nice to see an example (by a public figure, no less) that an atheistic outlook is no less psychologically healthy for dealing with all the challenges of impending death, than a more faith-based approach.

You surprise me Uncle. You're known for your philosophical and sophisticated views, yet you can't see how Hitchens -as usual- has been shilling himself. Why is he on CNN? Why is subjecting himself to all these extremely personal questions regarding his death? He's trying to sell books Uncle. And drum up sympathy. He knows how he looks. He knows everyone will be thinking "poor, brave Hitch, sniff".

If Hitch had been a real man, instead of an exhibitionist, or the poser he's always been, he would have issued a dignified statement regarding his illness and retired from the public spotlight.

Instead its "Showtime", its "hey look at me - I'm a tough guy (aka big mouth) who has cancer, and look at how brave I am". Very Un-English, very Un-WASP, and very Hitch.

rcocean
08-09-2010, 02:17 AM
He's begging for sympathy? What?

By the way... you going to die one day too. Haha!!

So will we all, Lyle. I know I'll die without shilling myself for money or fame or bleating for sympathy - which is what Hitch is doing. I hope you do the same.

And I'm confused, is he now saying prayer is OK or is he still the God hating tough guy?

uncle ebeneezer
08-09-2010, 02:58 AM
I don't really see why you're so offended by an: author promoting his book (which he started before his diagnosis), a cancer victim speaking about his struggle candidly and a very public figure remaining in the public rather than slinking off into the darkness.

I sincerely hope nobody you love gets cancer. In addition to the horrible nature of the disease, I'd hate to think of them having to sit through your self-righteous lecture on what is or is not the appropriate way for them to handle it.

look
08-09-2010, 03:06 AM
You surprise me Uncle. You're known for your philosophical and sophisticated views, yet you can't see how Hitchens -as usual- has been shilling himself. Why is he on CNN? Why is subjecting himself to all these extremely personal questions regarding his death? He's trying to sell books Uncle. And drum up sympathy. He knows how he looks. He knows everyone will be thinking "poor, brave Hitch, sniff".

If Hitch had been a real man, instead of an exhibitionist, or the poser he's always been, he would have issued a dignified statement regarding his illness and retired from the public spotlight.

Instead its "Showtime", its "hey look at me - I'm a tough guy (aka big mouth) who has cancer, and look at how brave I am". Very Un-English, very Un-WASP, and very Hitch.I think he's quite well off, so I disagree about him wanting to sell books. I think there is something to the tough-guy thing, but what he's doing is intellectualizing, which comes very naturally to him. He's still in denial, I think, and it has yet to hit.

It's a really bad cancer to have. Looking at this chart, I'm thinking he might be at stage three, as he said they worked on his lungs and he had a visible lymph node on his clavicle. That is, only 15% of sufferers will be alive in 5 years.

http://www.gitract.info/articles/esophageal-disorders/esophageal-cancer.php

rcocean
08-09-2010, 03:08 AM
I don't really see why you're so offended by an: author promoting his book (which he started before his diagnosis), a cancer victim speaking about his struggle candidly and a very public figure remaining in the public rather than slinking off into the darkness.

I sincerely hope nobody you love gets cancer. In addition to the horrible nature of the disease, I'd hate to think of them having to sit through your self-righteous lecture on what is or is not the appropriate way for them to handle it.

Well, if Hitch is a hero of yours, so be it. I've lost several loved ones through Cancer and never lectured anyone. Of course, they never wanted to go on CNN to say how "brave" they were.

rcocean
08-09-2010, 03:15 AM
I think he's quite well off, so I disagree about him wanting to sell books. I think there is something to the tough-guy thing, but what he's doing is intellectualizing, which comes very naturally to him. He's still in denial, I think, and it has yet to hit.

It's a really bad cancer to have. Looking at this chart, I'm thinking he might be at stage three, as he said they worked on his lungs and he had a visible lymph node on his clavicle. That is, only 15% of sufferers will be alive in 5 years.

http://www.gitract.info/articles/esophageal-disorders/esophageal-cancer.php

My feeling is that Hitch will around for quite a while. He's rich and can afford the best medical care. There's a reason for him to paint a black picture (I'm dyin' so buy my book) but I think we'll be seeing him for a few more years.

look
08-09-2010, 03:44 AM
My feeling is that Hitch will around for quite a while. He's rich and can afford the best medical care. There's a reason for him to paint a black picture (I'm dyin' so buy my book) but I think we'll be seeing him for a few more years.I don't think that's enough in these cases. It helps, of course, but a lot of it is dumb luck, I'm guessing. Look at people like Tony Snowe, Patrick Swayze, etc. Money isn't enough, sometimes. If anything, his contrariness and will to live may do as much as the excellent medical care.

uncle ebeneezer
08-09-2010, 12:28 PM
I'm sure Hitchens isn't in the poor house, but who knows how well off he is. As Bob and many others have lamented on bhtv many times, writing doesn't pay like it used to. If Hitchens wants to get out and continue to sell books in order to provide better for the family that he soon will leave behind, I can hardly fault him for that. More importantly, of the many people I have known who have faced cancer or other really serious illness, one of the toughest things is to try to maintain some sense of normalcy. For someone like Hitch, writing books, doing interviews, debating and showing off his intellect and literary prowess are a HUGE part of his life. As the saying goes: you are what you do. We've seen athletes plug on and try to continue playing their sport, musicians continue to perform, and yes writers continue to write. What RC likes to cynically write off as some sort of exhibitionism or pity party, I can very easily see as a man who simply wants to continue to do what he loves and in the meantime provide for his family. In other words he wants to continue to live while he still can. If a similiar situation ever arose for me, I can only imagine that I would have the same attitude, and you would only get my guitar/drumsticks when you pried them from my cold, dead hands.

As far as the personal nature of the questioning, OF COURSE people are going to ask him about his cancer! (Especially given his ardent atheism, it's a natural line of questioning given how common it is for something like cancer to cause non-believers to reconsider.) Hitchens has never been one to avoid a tough question and it seems totally consistent with his personality that he would answer candidly. Not to mention talking about it is a certain form of therapy.

nikkibong
08-09-2010, 01:02 PM
As far as the personal nature of the questioning, OF COURSE people are going to ask him about his cancer! (Especially given his ardent atheism, it's a natural line of questioning given how common it is for something like cancer to cause non-believers to reconsider.) Hitchens has never been one to avoid a tough question and it seems totally consistent with his personality that he would answer candidly. Not to mention talking about it is a certain form of therapy.

I don't see the logic here. "Oh wow, I've just been struck with an incredibly painful and dangerous illness. I may not live another year. Of course that's evidence of an all-loving God!"

Incidentally, I half-agree with rc here. If nothing else, there is something, um, unseemly, about Hitchens' cancer publicity tour. But then, he's always been more addicted to publicity and attention than booze and smokes.

look
08-09-2010, 01:18 PM
I'm sure Hitchens isn't in the poor house, but who knows how well off he is. As Bob and many others have lamented on bhtv many times, writing doesn't pay like it used to. If Hitchens wants to get out and continue to sell books in order to provide better for the family that he soon will leave behind, I can hardly fault him for that. More importantly, of the many people I have known who have faced cancer or other really serious illness, one of the toughest things is to try to maintain some sense of normalcy. For someone like Hitch, writing books, doing interviews, debating and showing off his intellect and literary prowess are a HUGE part of his life. As the saying goes: you are what you do. We've seen athletes plug on and try to continue playing their sport, musicians continue to perform, and yes writers continue to write. What RC likes to cynically write off as some sort of exhibitionism or pity party, I can very easily see as a man who simply wants to continue to do what he loves and in the meantime provide for his family. In other words he wants to continue to live while he still can. If a similiar situation ever arose for me, I can only imagine that I would have the same attitude, and you would only get my guitar/drumsticks when you pried them from my cold, dead hands.As far as the personal nature of the questioning, OF COURSE people are going to ask him about his cancer! (Especially given his ardent atheism, it's a natural line of questioning given how common it is for something like cancer to cause non-believers to reconsider.) Hitchens has never been one to avoid a tough question and it seems totally consistent with his personality that he would answer candidly. Not to mention talking about it is a certain form of therapy.Great point. He may also realize that in order to move on, he'll have to satisfy the public who is concerned about him and wants to know what he's thinking. Then, at some point he can say, 'enough about the cancer, it's boring me to tears.' I've often thought that if I ever got cancer one of the biggest pains would be people continually asking me how I am, treating me differently, etc. Molly Ivins talks of this in this funny piece on having breast cancer. I miss her, and wouldn't it be great to hear her one-liners about Palin?


Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that.

One of the first things you notice is that people treat you differently when they know you have it. The hushed tone in which they inquire, "How are you?" is unnerving. If I had answered honestly during 90% of the nine months I spent in treatment, I would have said, "If it weren't for being constipated, I'd be fine." In fact, even chemotherapy is not nearly as hard as it once was, although it still made all my hair fall out. My late friend Jocelyn Gray found the ultimate proof that there is no justice: "Not just my hair, but my eyebrows, my eyelashes--every hair on my body has fallen out, except for these goddam little mustaches at the corner of my mouth I have always hated."

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1001832-1,00.html

uncle ebeneezer
08-09-2010, 01:20 PM
You don't see the logic of not believing in an eternal life and then when you find out that your material/physical life just got a whole lot shorter, suddenly realizing "hey maybe this eternal life thing isn't so bad after all."? It seems like a pretty straight-forward logic to me for the desire to keep living in some sort.

Florian
08-09-2010, 01:35 PM
You don't see the logic of not believing in an eternal life and then when you find out that your material/physical life just got a whole lot shorter, suddenly realizing "hey maybe this eternal life thing isn't so bad after all."? It seems like a pretty straight-forward logic to me for the desire to keep living in some sort.

Logic has nothing to do with it, unless you think there is something wrong with this classical syllogism:

All men are mortal
Socrates (Hitchens) is a man
Therefore Socrates (Hitchens) is mortal.

Of course, if you believe:

All men are immortal
Socrates (Hitchens) is a man
Therefore Socrates (Hitchens) is immortal.

Then there is nothing illogical about thinking that Hitchens is immortal. But the major of the first syllogism is universally true (as far as we know up to now), whereas the major of the second syllogism has never been verified.

Ocean
08-09-2010, 01:38 PM
You don't see the logic of not believing in an eternal life and then when you find out that your material/physical life just got a whole lot shorter, suddenly realizing "hey maybe this eternal life thing isn't so bad after all."? It seems like a pretty straight-forward logic to me for the desire to keep living in some sort.

Or at least that's a common argument that religious people overemphasize to point out that at the last minute, even non-believers turn to God, see the light, or whatever other way they define it. I do agree that proximity to death and deep suffering offer the perfect psychological pressure to want to believe. I would be shocked if that was the case with Hitchens.

uncle ebeneezer
08-09-2010, 01:44 PM
Okay, not "logical" in the philosophical sense but a completely rational hedging of one's bets when realizing that a different viewpoint suddenly is far more attractive based on a change in circumstances. Rational human beings, finding a belief system that promises eternal life to be more attractive, as they get closer to physical death is entirely rational, predictable and witnessed regularly (at least according to second-hand accounts.)

Florian
08-09-2010, 01:55 PM
Okay, not "logical" in the philosophical sense but a completely rational hedging of one's bets when realizing that a different viewpoint suddenly is far more attractive based on a change in circumstances. Rational human beings, finding a belief system that promises eternal life to be more attractive, as they get closer to physical death is entirely rational, predictable and witnessed regularly (at least according to second-hand accounts.)

Rational = attractive. How illogical can you be, uncle ebeneezer!

But I assume that you only think other people are rational in such an irrational way.

uncle ebeneezer
08-09-2010, 02:07 PM
But I assume that you only think other people are rational in such an irrational way.

Nope. I'm just as subject to the same temptations as any other human. The calculus that contributes to the formulation of my worldview and beliefs undoubtedly takes into account the costs/benefits of my current circumstances.

Florian
08-09-2010, 02:24 PM
Nope. I'm just as subject to the same temptations as any other human. The calculus that contributes to the formulation of my worldview and beliefs undoubtedly takes into account the costs/benefits of my current circumstances.


So when your "benefits" begin to run out (around the age of 70?), you will start thinking about the costs of being mortal and you will wager, with Pascal, that the benefits of being immortal far outweight the costs of being mortal (what a bummer!). So you will "wager" that it is better to believe in eternal life than to believe in eternal nothingness, because eternity lasts a long, long time, whereas life is nothing but an instant.

I long ago came to the conclusion that cost/benefit calculations are always irrational.

uncle ebeneezer
08-09-2010, 02:49 PM
I don't know. I don't have a crystal ball. But my gut instinct answer is to say, no. Lying to myself may have comforting benefits but it also has costs (provided I still think it's lying) and I don't know that the former would outweigh the latter.

I could also not believe in eternal life BUT believe that IF THERE IS, my disbelief wouldn't preclude me from enjoying it's benefits.

Lyle
08-09-2010, 02:58 PM
Clearly he's the God hating tough guy still. I mean, he says he has yet to pray for himself, but is simply thankful and charmed by peoples' prayers for him. That's not begging for sympathy or saying that prayer is now good... just that the genuflections to him are all well and good.

Yes, we are all going to die. Hahahaha to us all!!!

Ocean
08-09-2010, 03:01 PM
Yes, we are all going to die. Hahahaha to us all!!!

It's okay, Lyle, we're all going to die. You don't need to get all histrionic about it though...

nikkibong
08-09-2010, 03:03 PM
Yes, we are all going to die. Hahahaha to us all!!!

especially if the muslins have anything to say about it, right, lyle?

Lyle
08-09-2010, 03:10 PM
No, not really... I'm guessing somewhere I typed Muslins though. Oh my God... Allah, don't strike me down. Don't let the Muslim Taliban execute me like they did those Christian medical workers in Afghanistan. Haha, Lyle wrote Muslins. Look everybody, Lyle wrote Muslins, haha!!!

Lyle
08-09-2010, 03:12 PM
As much as there is sadness and anger in death... there is also humor. I embrace it all. I'm an orgy of emotion.

nikkibong
08-09-2010, 03:13 PM
No, not really... I'm guessing somewhere I typed Muslins though. Oh my God... Allah, don't strike me down. Don't let the Muslim Taliban execute me like they did those Christian medical workers in Afghanistan. Haha, Lyle wrote Muslins. Look everybody, Lyle wrote Muslins, haha!!!

quite the admission, coming from a Noted Scholar Of Islam(n) such as yourself...

Lyle
08-09-2010, 03:17 PM
Oh, I've never claimed to be a scholar of Islan or held myself out to be such. I just present facts and make arguments when it comes Islan... oops, I mean Islam.

Wonderment
08-09-2010, 03:35 PM
Molly Ivins talks of this in this funny piece on having breast cancer. I miss her, and wouldn't it be great to hear her one-liners about Palin?


Good quote from Molly. Yes, she is missed. Hitchens is humorless about his disease, but everyone handles death differently (cliche #1).

His line that the zits on his knees cleared up reminded me of that old joke about the guy who goes to see his doctor. "Well," says the doctor, "I've got good news and bad news." The patient asks to hear the bad news first. "You've got a brain tumor and have 3 months to live." The patient replies, "Oh my god, what could possibly be the good news?" The doctor says, "I'm banging my secretary."

There's also the one about the woman who goes to her oncologist and gets this news: "You owe me $200K for the surgery, and you've only got 3 months to live." The devastated patient exclaims, "I'll have to sell my house to pay you." Doctor replies, "Ok, I'll make that 5 months."

We are all going to die, as a couple of posters have pointed out (cliché #2). Many of us will get cancer and some of us will die from that. Some of us will die worse deaths than CH because we'll be poorer, younger, in greater pain, lonelier, in less control of our fates, etc.

But it's never easy. Gloating over someone's impending death is sadistic. It's true that Hitchens would often skewer people mercilessly in his writing, and he too had a sadistic streak, as do most people. My advice would be, however, not to indulge schadenfreude and sadism and certainly not to celebrate it self-righteously.

uncle ebeneezer
08-09-2010, 03:55 PM
My advice would be, however, not to indulge schadenfreude and sadism and certainly not to celebrate it self-righteously.

Amen, to that!

bjkeefe
08-09-2010, 09:32 PM
This time, with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, and Martin Amis sitting in.

Jim Newell (http://gawker.com/5608640/christopher-hitchens-how-am-i-im-dying) has the vid (08:34) embedded. Here's his post.

Christopher Hitchens: 'How Am I? I'm Dying'

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg visited cancer-stricken writer (http://gawker.com/5605584/christopher-hitchens-writes-about-cancer-vomiting-before-daily-show) Christopher Hitchens at his Washington D.C. apartment for a very sunny interview session. When Goldberg first asks how he's doing, Hitchens doesn't hesitate: "How am I? I'm dying."

[Added] Video might behave better here (http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid30183073001?bctid=309209427001).

==========

[Added2] Related post on Goldblog (http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/08/a-message-to-those-praying-for-christopher-hitchens/61131/). Warning: not for the easily offended. Me, I raise a glass in JG's direction.

Also, if you follow the link within that post, there is an indication from the wrapper text around his embed of the video that this clip is just part of a longer interview, and he will be doling out pieces in the near future. Get clicks or die tryin', as someone once said.

rcocean
08-10-2010, 12:19 AM
Related post on Goldblog (http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/08/a-message-to-those-praying-for-christopher-hitchens/61131/). Warning: not for the easily offended. Me, I raise a glass in JG's direction.


I was actually offended.** Goldberg not only knocks down the straw man he curses at him. Seems a little over-the-top, poor strawman. But Bravo to Goldberg for writing something that 99 percent of well, everyone, agrees with. Tomorrow, Goldberg tells Nazi's: "Fuck You" - BJ applauds.

** Actually, I'm not, I'm writing something that when taken literally seems to means one thing but when put in context actually means something else. Note: Written for the benefit of BJK, Amjeff and people who need emoticons.

bjkeefe
08-10-2010, 12:20 AM
I was actually offended.

Imagine my surprise.

look
08-10-2010, 02:07 AM
But it's never easy. Gloating over someone's impending death is sadistic. It's true that Hitchens would often skewer people mercilessly in his writing, and he too had a sadistic streak, as do most people. My advice would be, however, not to indulge schadenfreude and sadism and certainly not to celebrate it self-righteously.Well I feel a great sense of loss. But as tasteless as rc is being, and hypocritical (i.e., if Hitch was wrong to gloat, does that make it right for rc?), it's hard to blame people who found Hitch so totally off-putting they believe he's getting his just deserts. I read the first several paragraphs of his God is not Great book...what spiteful vitriol...what a juvenille ass. But I digress. Thanks for your thoughts.

look
08-10-2010, 02:08 AM
Live motherfucker, live!!! That's my prayer.Amen.

bjkeefe
08-10-2010, 04:02 AM
Related post on Goldblog (http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/08/a-message-to-those-praying-for-christopher-hitchens/61131/). Warning: not for the easily offended. Me, I raise a glass in JG's direction.

I was actually offended.

Imagine my surprise.

** Actually, I'm not, ...

Nothing says "intellectual courage" like modifying your post after it has already been responded to.

uncle ebeneezer
08-10-2010, 09:37 PM
I also wonder, if the situation was different and Hitchens cancer had caused him to accept Jesus (or God at least) and decided that he wanted to do his book tours and use the opportunity to trumpet his great conversion, would people still consider it shilling, unseemly, exhibitionist or evidence that he couldn't just be a man and bow gracefully out of the public light? Would it be inappropriate?

Wonderment
08-10-2010, 10:13 PM
I also wonder, if the situation was different and Hitchens cancer had caused him to accept Jesus (or God at least) and decided that he wanted to do his book tours and use the opportunity to trumpet his great conversion, would people still consider it shilling, unseemly, exhibitionist or evidence that he couldn't just be a man and bow gracefully out of the public light? Would it be inappropriate?

Yeah, good point. He would be the poster boy for Pat Robertson ministries, you can bet your Baby Jesus on that. Suddenly there'd be an outpouring of forgiveness. Although the pious often claim to love the sinner and hate the sin, we can see how hypocritical some become when the "sin" is public gayness or atheism.

I actually have a contrarian take on the interview with Anderson Cooper. I thought Cooper appeared compassionate and concerned, much unlike the vengeful Rcocean.

The "test" of atheism should not be death, however. That's a moronic standard. It's not a big deal, fer Chris sake, if you break down and do a few incantations when faced with a terrifying looming descent into eternal nothingness.

When I thought I was about to die in a major earthquake in Mexico City, I immediately and instinctively started making hysterical supplications to God to save me. When the Earth stopped shaking about a minute later, my rational brain kicked in and I went right back to atheism. It proves nothing.

AemJeff
08-11-2010, 12:19 AM
Yeah, good point. He would be the poster boy for Pat Robertson ministries, you can bet your Baby Jesus on that. Suddenly there'd be an outpouring of forgiveness. Although the pious often claim to love the sinner and hate the sin, we can see how hypocritical some become when the "sin" is public gayness or atheism.

I actually have a contrarian take on the interview with Anderson Cooper. I thought Cooper appeared compassionate and concerned, much unlike the vengeful Rcocean.

The "test" of atheism should not be death, however. That's a moronic standard. It's not a big deal, fer Chris sake, if you break down and do a few incantations when faced with a terrifying looming descent into eternal nothingness.

When I thought I was about to die in a major earthquake in Mexico City, I immediately and instinctively started making hysterical supplications to God to save me. When the Earth stopped shaking about a minute later, my rational brain kicked in and I went right back to atheism. It proves nothing.

I had two near death experiences, less than two years apart during the early part of the last decade. I actively looked for the "Jesus" reflex the first time, hoping for a way around the fear, but really couldn't find it; though I did have a quasi-religious experience when I came out the general anesthetic in my bed. The nurse or orderly at work constructing the complex web of IV tubes that would sustain and protect me during those first few days seemed to me like some sort of wise light-giver (no shit, it's goofy to say, and perfectly accurate), and it was deeply, strangely comforting to know he was there; and to be able ask the inane and addled questions with which I peppered him for what seemed like hours. I'm sure it was a combination of drugs, post-operative shock, and peritonitis to blame.

The second time, I was resigned to the possibility I might not wake up. It didn't even occur to me to wish for some kind of of faith. When I did wake up, I found real and abiding comfort in my feelings for the people I love, and (I admit freely) for myself. (You might be surprised at the intensity of that feeling, if you ever have a similar moment.) Those feelings occupied exactly the same place which, much earlier in my life, seemed completely filled up by Catholicism, and worshipful religiosity. To this day, I feel a strong reflexive empathy, not just for my friends and family, but (not so oddly, I think) for other heart patients. I find those feelings that a real source of strength and a help in maintaining some degree of emotional balance.

Atheists find it quite possible to find strength and beauty in the face of death. The notion of the deathbed conversion seems to me more a comfort for believers to reinforce their own feelings, than it seems to be something directly relevant to me.

uncle ebeneezer
08-11-2010, 12:28 AM
That's a great story Wonder. I would guess that even the most die-hard of atheists has those moments of "weakness" (to use a phrase that I'm sure would delight Hitch). I know I have. I think they are partly ingrained in our reptilian cores. As one great diavlog with Joshua Knobe mentioned, these ideas of the existence of spirits and the supernatural seem to be hardwired into us even as babies. However I give it no more merit than any number of other beliefs I've held at times (she really loves me, I'm the greatest, I'm the worst etc.) that are just as untethered to reality and more a product of many other factors that contribute to the state of my brain at the moment of their thinking. To me the biggest test is the moment after the earthquake subsides and whether or not you consider the fact that your brain was operating in an altered state to meet a sudden existential threat, or whether you take that state to be a glimpse of some deeper underlying truth.

Wonderment
08-11-2010, 01:14 AM
To me the biggest test is the moment after the earthquake subsides and whether or not you consider the fact that your brain was operating in an altered state to meet a sudden existential threat, or whether you take that state to be a glimpse of some deeper underlying truth.

Probably a little bit of both, as Jeff also seems to confirm.

Nothing supernatural, but a heightened state of emotional awareness has been awakened in me by near-catastrophic or seemingly catastrophic events several times in my life. I also had two "out-of-body" experiences in the hospital, one as a very young child (anesthesia, I presume). Another time I flipped out into another world was when I thought (mistakenly) for a few moments that my daughter had died (long story).

These kinds of experiences didn't affect my belief system, but they did reveal an emotional depth that's hidden or suppressed under normal circumstances. It's no less valid and authentic than ordinary consciousness, and in some ways seems more valid and authentic. Often psychedelic drugs will also get you there.

So it seems sort of besides the point if people express these deep experiences in a religious or secular vocabulary. The important thing is to honor the experience. There are brands of militant atheism and militant theism that I think dishonor transcendental experiences. Both are good at slamming the doors of perception (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Doors_of_Perception).

uncle ebeneezer
08-11-2010, 02:08 AM
I don't know why but this:

It's no less valid and authentic than ordinary consciousness, and in some ways seems more valid and authentic. Often psychedelic drugs will also get you there.

struck me as funny. How true! ;)

Anyways excellent post. The only quibble that I would have is that I think the most militant atheists lime PZ Myers, Dennett, myself etc. would all recognize the tremendous weight of such an experience (I've had them, though never quite near-death) but would just seek a natural, materialist explanation for it. I don't think that is dishonoring it in any way. It's just a matter of realizing that certain fight-or-flight survival situations push your mind into a whole other gear, but that there is a tremendous susceptibility to misperception in those states.

Ocean
08-11-2010, 11:31 AM
So it seems sort of besides the point if people express these deep experiences in a religious or secular vocabulary. The important thing is to honor the experience. There are brands of militant atheism and militant theism that I think dishonor transcendental experiences. Both are good at slamming the doors of perception (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Doors_of_Perception).

Beyond honoring the experience (as a deeply fascinating perceptual-emotional event), there's an opportunity for personal growth from it.

Your writing and Jeff's reminded me of Karl Jaspers' ideas about boundary situations. I hadn't read Jaspers since high school (yes, quite some time ago). I just searched for some online articles to refresh my memory, and I found quite a number of interesting readings on the topic. I saw some articles written in recent years. Has there been a reemergence of interest in existentialism?

The basic idea from Jaspers is that boundary situations (near death, suffering, danger, guilt, etc.), allow, if overcome in the right way, to realize one's meaning of life. (ATTENTION, BOB, ATTENTION! ;) )

Here's an excerpt from one of the articles I found:
(http://www.bu.edu/paideia/existenz/volumes/Vol.1Salamun.html)
Jaspers' anthropological framework consists of a dual conception of man, and bears in some basic aspects striking resemblances to Immanuel Kant's philosophical anthropology and to Søren Kierkegaard's conception of the human being. Both influenced Jaspers intensively as we can see from his early book Psychology of World-Views (1919). Jaspers understands a human being as an empirical and non-empirical phenomenon. While the empirical dimension of man can be researched by the sciences (e.g., biology, psychology, sociology), the non-empirical dimension cannot be described and explained in objectifying scientific terms. In Psychology of World-Views, Jaspers argues that the non-empirical dimension of humanity can be elucidated only by a kind of hermeneutic approach in psychology. In his works of existentialism he holds the position that it is the task of an existential transcending philosophizing to "elucidate" that non-empirical dimension of human existence.

Furthermore, Jaspers argues that a human being realises one's life and potentialities in four modes, or four dimensions, of being. As the first basic dimension of human self-realisation Jaspers mentions naive vitality, or, vital existence. This is the biological or physical part of oneself, where physical conditions, spontaneous emotions, basic interests and instinctive impulses dominate. Such dimension of human life, Jaspers calls it bloßes Dasein, is without self-reflection and self-consciousness. Jaspers argues: "Physically I am part of life, a part whose form and function is the continuity of that ever-changing body of mine. I want this life; without it I do not exist. I am present in its vital functions, but these functions are not I. As nothing but life, I would be just a natural process."(5)

The second dimension of human self-realisation he calls Bewußtsein überhaupt (i.e., "consciousness in general" or "consciousness at large"). This is to be understood by way of analogy with Kant's epistemology: The human mind has a mere formal structure in virtue of the forms of perception (space and time) and the forms of conception (categories of thought). Those formal elements are a priori conditions for constituting knowledge. With consciousness in general, Jaspers refers to the dimension of logical thinking and rationality.

The third dimension of human being Jaspers calls the dimension of Geist ("spirit" or "reason"). Though Geist is dependent upon correctness of understanding and thinking, it goes beyond it. The specific capacity of spirit is the production of ideas that allow one to see different phenomena in terms of unities and as parts of a meaningful whole. These ideas are manifest in personal ideals, principles of religion, moral world-views, political ideologies, creative conceptions of the arts. Jaspers himself wrote three different monographs concerning the idea of the university, where the task and goals of university institutions are pointed out.(6)

Now these three modes of being – or, dimensions of self-realisation – represent humans only as an empirical phenomenon. All human beings, however, own as an existential possibility or potentiality a fourth and non-empirical dimension of self-realisation which is the highest form, self-realisation as Existenz. The concept of Existenz stands for the non-objective actuality of self-being and true self-hood, the authentic ground of human being, exemplified by the intimate dimension of personal autonomy, existential freedom, and undetermined moral decisions. No empirical studies or doctrines of ontology and ethics can provide adequate understanding of subjectivity and humanity. Understanding comes with realising this dimension in one's own life and/or by elucidating it through transcending philosophizing. "Self-realisation as Existenz is equivalent to realising the meaning of one's own life.

popcorn_karate
08-11-2010, 02:50 PM
Okay, not "logical" in the philosophical sense but a completely rational hedging of one's bets when realizing that a different viewpoint suddenly is far more attractive based on a change in circumstances.

its not rational, its reasonable:

So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.

uncle ebeneezer
08-11-2010, 03:08 PM
That's a great quote!

thprop
08-13-2010, 12:29 PM
Ever since losing his ability to speak, Roger Ebert's writing keeps getting better. If you have not read it, I highly recommend his blog (http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/) - which is more a series of lengthy essays. If you do not know what has been going on with Ebert, read the Esquire interview (http://www.esquire.com/features/roger-ebert-0310).

Ebert's latest entry (http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/08/traveler_to_the_undiscovered_c.html) is about Hitchens and his reaction to the Cooper interview. It is a great piece.

thprop
08-13-2010, 12:49 PM
I should add a comment about the movie Ebert mentions at the end of the piece - "Gates of Heaven (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077598/)". It is a documentary by Errol Morris (http://www.errolmorris.com/) about pet cemeteries. Here is Ebert's review (http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19971109/REVIEWS08/401010320/1023).

I love this movie. I find it mesmerizing. If possible, also check out "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081746/)." Yes, there is a connection.

AemJeff
08-13-2010, 12:55 PM
Ever since losing his ability to speak, Roger Ebert's writing keeps getting better. If you have not read it, I highly recommend his blog (http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/) - which is more a series of lengthy essays. If you do not know what has been going on with Ebert, read the Esquire interview (http://www.esquire.com/features/roger-ebert-0310).

Ebert's latest entry (http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/08/traveler_to_the_undiscovered_c.html) is about Hitchens and his reaction to the Cooper interview. It is a great piece.

I agree very strongly with this. Ebert's writing was always very good (even if I disagreed with some of his film judgments, I sill always wanted to read his reviews. Since his illness he's been writing with real grace and wit, regardless of the topic.

Ocean
08-13-2010, 01:58 PM
Ever since losing his ability to speak, Roger Ebert's writing keeps getting better. If you have not read it, I highly recommend his blog (http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/) - which is more a series of lengthy essays. If you do not know what has been going on with Ebert, read the Esquire interview (http://www.esquire.com/features/roger-ebert-0310).

Ebert's latest entry (http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/08/traveler_to_the_undiscovered_c.html) is about Hitchens and his reaction to the Cooper interview. It is a great piece.

Thank you for the links. Ebert's piece was excellent. He shows the simplicity and moderation that age and suffering can bring along. There's beauty in it.

uncle ebeneezer
08-13-2010, 04:14 PM
Agreed. I never knew much of Ebert's writing (aside from his terrible screenplay (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQnobTsMnx0)) and I usually disagreed with his reviews, so I didn't realize how well he writes.